26th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Will the proposed legislation indicated in the Budget to extend the benefits of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act to national servicemen make it compulsory for national service personnel to contribute to the fund? If so, what will be the position in relation to public servants who are already contributors to the Public Service Superannuation Fund?
– Legislation will be introduced into the Senate in relation to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. If the honourable senator waits until that legislation is introduced he will understand all of its implications.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs seen a statement made by Mr Calwell in the publication ‘Fact’ that the United States would not accept conditions imposed by a future Labour government for keeping Australian forces in Vietnam and that this would mean that the United States would pull out altogether from Vietnam, Okinawa and Taiwan? Because of the profound importance of the statement, will the Minister consider making a copy available to all honourable senators?
– I have seen a Press report of the statement attributed to the former leader of the Australian Labor Party, Mr Calwell, which indicated - I gathered - that if a Labor government came into power now and imposed on the United States the conditions that Labor says it would impose, the United States would be likely to withdraw altogether in disgust from this part of the world. It appears to me on reading the Press report, if it is true, to be more distinguished by accuracy than were many of the statements that Mr Calwell used to make. As I understand it, when Mr Calwell was the leader the policy of the Australian Labor Party in connection with Vietnam was that if the Labor Party were elected to office Australian troops would be immediately withdrawn from Vietnam. Then, when it became clear that the Australian people just would not stomach that, the position became a little blurred by an argument between the then leader and the present leader as to whether all Australian troops or only some Australian troops would be immediately withdrawn.
– I raise a point of order. This is not an answer to the question that was asked. The Minister is engaging in argument and is using question time for debating a matter that is not relevant to an answer to the question. This is not a proper use of question time.
– Order! The point of order is not upheld. The Minister may reply to the question in his own way.
– I pointed out in reply to the question - which is, after all, something of considerable moment - what the policy used to be. I understand it has since been restated and that if a Labor government were elected it would demand that the United States accept the terms that the Vietcong wants it to accept and if the United States would not agree with that ultimatum Australian troops would then be withdrawn. This is the basis of Mr Calwell’s alleged statement that in those circumstances the United States might well in disgust withdraw from this part of the world. The statement appears to me to contain an element of accuracy which, as I said, his previous statements often lacked.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. In the light of continued statements by Mr Bridges MLA, a senior member of the New South Wales Liberal Government, to the effect that the Commonwealth Government has sold out New South Wales because of its inability to make up its mind to extend the runway at Sydney (Kingsford Smith) Airport, is that in effect a vindication of the criticisms levelled at the Commonwealth Government by New South Wales senators?
– Neither I nor the Minister for Civil Aviation in another place can be responsible for statements allegedly made by Mr Bridges. AH I can say to the honourable senator is that Mr Bridges would have no appreciation and no understanding of the problems involved in this matter, so if the statement was made in the terms mentioned by the honorable senator it cannot be regarded as an informed statement. I am not suggesting that he is misrepresenting Mr Bridges. I am saying that the statement as allegedly reported may be a long way below a desirable level of accuracy. In any case, the Minister for Civil Aviation has the advantage of the best advisers in Australia on matters pertaining to his portfolio, and I am satisfied that the people of Australia can rely upon the Minister’s judgment, good sense and fundamental logic in civil aviation matters.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. In view of statements made in the debate in the Senate yesterday I ask the Minister whether the United States has attempted to submit, or has submitted, the Vietnam issue to tha United Nations.
– I do not have in my mind the information to answer this question with the degree of precision with which 1 would like to answer it, but my clear recollection is that the United States has not only indicated its willingness and desire that this matter should be brought before the United Nations but that it did in fact submit the matter to, I believe, the Security Council - that is my recollection - and that the Security Council did not take the matter under cognisance because of objections by Russia and other countries. It is also my clear recollection that the Government of North Vietnam has quite clearly stated that it regards the United Nations as having no jurisdiction and that the matter should be kept out of that body. In order to get an exact answer, which 1 believe will be in line with my recollection, 1 think it would be a good thing for the honourable senator to put this question on the notice paper so that what 1 believe to be a complete misstatement of the facts by the Opposition yesterday can be corrected.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. In view of the economic necessity for Australia to export, will the Minister explain to the Senate why the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd is manufacturing steel rails for domestic use but is not willing to export them to friendly countries in which there is a ready and profitable market?
– I am sure that if the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd had steel rails available for export to a profitable market it would welcome the opportunity and export rails to that market. I am advised that last year BHP exported over 1 million tons of steel covering a wide range of products to some 25 different markets. Those exports did not include any rails, except for New Zealand, as the company’s capacity for manufacturing rails was fully absorbed in meeting local and New Zealand orders.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Is the Minister aware that the method adopted by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department of zone charging for telephone calls discriminates against people in areas removed from State capital cities? Is he aware also that cost impositions of this type react against the proper distribution of population? Will the Minister resurvey the present system with the object of introducing a more equitable system of charging for telephone calls?
– I will refer the honourable senator’s question to the PostmasterGeneral. For that reason I think it should be put on the notice paper.
- Mr President, I address this question to you as the Presiding Officer of this House. It is in furtherance of a question I asked some years ago. 1 understand that a new booklet for tourists. which is a guide to Parliament House, is to be published shortly, In the event of that new book being published, could it be enlarged to include details and photographs of the historical exhibits, paintings, documents and other articles relating to such persons and events as Captain Cook, Charles Sturt, Scott’s expedition to the South Pole, Kingsford-Smith and the Magna Carta which are all to be found in this building? Such a booklet would be of great interest as a historical record of the development of Australia and the work of those who have made it great.
– In answer to the last part of the honourable senator’s question, I point out that the major items to which she has referred belong not to Parliament House but to the National Library. Although it would be of interest to have a publication of that type, those articles, in the course of time, will be taken from the House. Sales of the publication available at the front door exceed 200,000. At the present time Mr Speaker and I arc considering bringing out another edition of that booklet, without changing it basically but altering the style a little.
We hope to have published at a later stage a booklet covering matters between those included in ‘The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia’ and the booklet ‘The Outline of Parliament in Australia’, which will be for the use principally of high schools and others interested tn such a booklet for instructional purposes. I am sorry that I cannot give the honourable senator a favourable answer to her question about the publication of a booklet covering the various paintings and collections which we have in Parliament House because, as I have said, in the course of the next 12 months those objects will probably leave the House.
– Mr President, it is rather unusual for you to have two questions in succession addressed to you, but I ask: Is it a fact that the Committee which was set up to inquire into the building of a new Parliament House went out of existence when the last Parliament ceased to exist? Because of the overcrowding in the present building and the need for a new Parliament
House, can you inform me whether moves are being made to form a new committee to inquire into this matter?
– The honourable senator is quite right. The Joint Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House went out of existence at the expiration of the last Parliament. To date it has not been re-formed, but I understand it will be at an early date. However, the time has not been wasted because investigations into the requirements of a new Parliament House have been continuing and the information so collected will be available to the new committee when it is appointed.
While I am mentioning the new Parliament House, I wish to point out that there is an acute shortage of space in the present building. The accommodation position has become very difficult, almost embarrassing, and at present we are considering additions to this building. I consider the work to be of an urgent nature. The additions will be in line with what the existing building will be used for after a new Parliament House is built. We treat the question of accommodation in this House as one of extreme urgency.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs and it is supplementary to the question asked by Senator Wright. Has the Government received any confirmation of the report by U Thant, the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations, that he considers that a renewed reference of the Vietnam issue to the United Nations would not be helpful at present?
– I will endeavour to find out for the honourable senator whether that particular statement was made by U Thant. He makes a number of statements from time to time. I will see whether the report has been confirmed or not.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation aware of a statement made recently by the Treasurer which indicated that the Government was considering introducing a passenger service charge to be payable by passengers on both domestic and international services? Is he aware that great concern is felt in many rural areas about the incidence of the proposed tax? Is the Minister aware that in many country areas the people have provided substantial sums towards the construction, development and indeed the purchase of their own airfields? Will he give the Senate an assurance that the proposed tax will not be applicable to passengers travelling into and out of those country centres where the people, in addition to providing the normal Federal revenues, have contributed locally to the cost of providing their own airfields and airfield facilities?
– Order! I suggest that this question should be placed on the notice paper.
– With respect, 1 submit that this matter is dealt with in the Budget, which is currently before the Senate.
– Yesterday I asked of the Minister representing the Minister for Health a question relating to the tragic deaths of four infants in the Canberra Community Hospital. As this matter is of an extremely urgent nature, I ask whether the Minister has been able to obtain the information requested.
– As the honourable senator will have noticed, a very extensive investigation relating to this matter is being carried out. When further information is available, the Minister for Health will advise the honourable senator.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I preface it by saying that I believe that every member of this Parliament is concerned with the welfare of the Dominion of New Zealand. Have any endeavours been made to sound out the possibilities for an arrangement between Australia and New Zealand for facilitating access by New Zealand to sources of iron ore in Australia in view of the vast resources of iron ore in this country and the fact that New Zealand’s difficult economic position is accentuated by a lack of iron ore in that country? If no endeavours have been made, will the Government consider taking the initiative in this matter?
– I. am sure that the honourable senator knows that we have a trade agreement with New Zealand. I am quite certain also that if there were any basis for the honourable senator’s concern most likely the New Zealand Government would have taken the initiative when the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement was being discussed with the Australian Minister for Trade and Industry.
– Will the Minister representing the Attorney-General seek from his colleague an assurance that he will make an annual report to the Parliament on the number of warrants authorising telephone tapping issued by him under section 6 of the Telephonic Communications (Interception) Act 1960 and by the Director-General of Security under section 7 of that Act?
– I will bring Senator Cohen’s request to the notice of the Attorney-General who, no doubt, will provide an answer.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. In view of the great toll of lives lost in road accidents in which speed is at least one factor, does the Minister consider it desirable that so much newspaper, television and radio advertising should be devoted to speed as a virtue in the manufacture and production of new cars? Is he aware that in the United States of America the attaching of governors to cars in order to reduce speed has been suggested? If he is, will he institute similar inquiries in Australia?
– There cannot be any doubt that speed is a very important factor in the toll of the road. I well recall that when the Senate Select Committee on Road Safety of which I had Hie honour to be Chairman had this matter under review one of the factors that were brought forcibly to our attention on the basis of worldwide statistics was speed. Speed on the open road ranked very high in the overall figures. As the Senate will appreciate, the States and the Commonwealth are putting their minds to this problem through a special Australian road safety organisation. The States have their own organisations, and the Commonwealth Minister for Shipping and Transport has the oversight of all of their considerations. I will most certainly be willing to submit the question that the honourable senator has asked to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I am sure that he will refer it to the appropriate organisations for them to look at the special points that the honourable senator has raised.
– Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate take up with the Prime Minister the possibility of finding some suitable way in which the name of the late Professor Jock Marshall, formerly of Monash University, can be commemorated in the light of his lengthy service in the field of Australian fauna conservation?
– I will draw the Prime Minister’s attention to the honourable senator’s question.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, refers to the reported statement by the Chairman of the Non-ferrous Metal Merchants Association asking for the lifting of the ban on the export of copper and copper alloy scrap. Tn the light of the Chairman’s claim that the circumstances that prompted the imposition of the ban in 1965 no longer exist, does the Government propose to review the ban?
– This matter is under constant review by the Government. I received the case to which the honourable senator has referred. I have not yet had an opportunity to digest it thoroughly. In view of the strike in the American copper industry, which is now of about 6 weeks duration, I wonder whether now is really the time for us to consider lifting this ban. However, I assure the honourable senator that this matter is under constant review.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Air. Out of curiosity, I should like him to ask his colleague whether he has any intention of answering my questions Nos. 63, 93, 143, 174 and 222 on the subject of VIP aircraft. If the Minister does intend to answer them, as I asked the first question on 8th March in order to obtain some information for use in the Budget debate, would it be possible to have that information for that debate?
– All that I can do is transmit requests made to me as Minister representing the Minister for Air to that Minister. Then it is a matter for him whether he replies and, if he does reply, when he replies.
(Question No. 286)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice:
– This question was asked by the honourable senator on Thursday, 24th August. On Tuesday last he complained that he had not received an answer. [ received an answer yesterday, but too late to give it at question time. The Minister has supplied the following information:
– On 16th August 1967 Senator Webster asked the following question without notice:
I ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether he is fully aware of the great concern displayed by country people who are requested by the Postmaster-General’s Department to support financially the erection and replacement of private telephone lines which require upgrading due to new communication systems being installed in rural areas. Is the Minister aware of the heavy and, at times, unreasonable contributions required of some country people? Will he give urgent consideration to making the cost of the installation of telephones a basic charge to all users of the Department’s services?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
It is the Government’s aim to assist rural development by providing telephone facilities under the most liberal conditions practicable. However, an arbitrary limit must be placed on the distance for which line plant can be provided. Beyond that distance each subscriber is required privately to erect and maintain his line. This upper limit represents an average expenditure of $1,056 on each line, for which a rental of $16 per annum could apply.
Current policy ensures an equitable distribution of line plant in new automatic exchange areas and the great majority of services are installed without any construction or maintenance costs to subscribers. The Post Office could not arbitrarily require these subscribers to pay a basic or proportional charge towards the cost incurred by those who are required to erect private sections of line nor has it power to assume such an authority.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) read a first time.
[11.30] - I move:
The Bill is to give legislative effect to the proposals outlined by the right honourable the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in his Budget Speech. The Government intends to increase the rates of child endowment for the fourth and subsequent children in a family. Over the years the Government has directed available finance so that child endowment is today accepted as a real family benefit. It was in 1941 that the Liberal and Country Party coalition Government introduced child endowment on a Commonwealth basis. The Government has since increased and extended payment so that the present rates of endowment are 50c a week for the first or only child under the age of 16 years, $1.00 a week for the second child, and $1.50 a week for the third and subsequent children.
Mr President, the Bill before the Senate has the purpose of increasing the rate of endowment for the fourth child under 16 years in a family to $1.75 a week; for the fifth child to $2.00 a week; for the sixth child to $2.25 a week; and for each succeeding child by a cumulative 25c a week. In illustration, a family with six endowed children receives at present $7.50 a week; under the current proposal that family will receive $9.00 a week. The corresponding figures for a family of ten are $13.50 a week now and $20.50 a week under the intended legislation.
Wage increases mean less per head to the larger family than to the smaller family for the simple reason that in the larger family there are more dependants. The need to correct this has been apparent to the Government for some time. From this awareness has sprung the idea of paying endowment on a graduated basis to lessen the economic disability of the family man who has more than the average number of children. The principle of graduated payments was introduced by the Menzies Government in 1950 when child endowment at the rate of 50c a week was extended to the first or only child, while the rates for second and subsequent children were $1.00 a week.
It is apparent to parents and to the Government, that there is, in this increasingly technical age, a greater need for higher education. To assist parents with their responsibilities and costs in the full development of their families the Government initiated legislation for the payment of student child endowment in 1964. At the same time the rate of endowment for the third and subsequent children was increased to $1.50 a week. The differential scale was then 50c a week for the first or only child, $1.00 a week for the second child and $1.50 for the third and later children. Mr President, in proposing to increase child endowment cumulatively at the rate of an additional 25c a week for the fourth and subsequent children, we are following logically the pattern of graduated payments developed by this Government over the years. We know of no better way of bridging the gap between the economic needs of the larger family and its income. It is true that originally, the basic wage was supplemented wilh endowment so that the family would receive a living wage. Now that wages are based on the production of industry rather than on the needs of the family, the necessity to complement is not so apparent. Nevertheless the requirements of the larger family must be greater than the wants of (he smaller family. The Bill before the Senate will help to rectify this disparity.
The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State’. So declared the United Nations in its Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In conformity with the United Nations principle just enunciated, the Government believes that the family is the cornerstone of our nation. We accept the responsibility of easing the economic and social pressures of modern day life. We will take what steps are necessary to promote the well being of the family. The proposals in this Bill are a pledge of the Government’s sincerity. Our concern for the family is further evidenced by our help in many other directions. The Commonwealth provides home savings grants, free milk for primary and pre-school children, tax deductions for children and educational expenses, and hospital, medical and pharmaceutical benefits. Under the Commonwealth scholarship scheme individual children receive assistance at secondary and tertiary levels. The administrative and capital expenses in our universities are assisted substantially, as is the construction of science laboratories in secondary schools, both State and private, throughout Australia. These arc only some of the forms of direct and indirect assistance to the family in addition to child endowment.
As a result of the measures contained in the present Bill, some 400,000 children will be endowed at increased rates at a cost of $8. 3m in a full year. Looking at the proposals in another way, over a million children in about 240,000 families will benefit because of the increased family endowment. There arc now almost 3,700,000 endowed children in 1,650,000 families and nearly 500 institutions. The National Welfare Fund is expended at the rate of over $ 1,000m a year, and one fifth of this total is spent on endowment. It is proposed that the benefits of this Bill will accrue from 19th September, so that payment of higher rates can be made on 17th October. In the case of the twelve-weekly payments to bank accounts, the increased rates will be paid on endowment pay day 12th December.
By this Bill the Government makes further contribution to the incomes of larger families and assists, in a practical way, those parents who assume greater responsibilities and obligations. The Government has a financial responsibility to the nation as a whole. The defence of the Commonwealth is obviously of paramount importance. Yet any effective defence policy must be backed by an active policy of economic growth. The latter presupposes a high and rising standard of living. The measures contained in this Bill will preserve and improve the present standards. Mr President, I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Fitzgerald) adjourned.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate to this Bill.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendment made by the Senate to this Bill.
Debate resumed from 30 August (vide page 395), on motion by Senator Henty:
That the Senate take note of the following papers:
Civil Works Programme 1967-68;
Commonwealth Payments to or for the States, 1967-68;
Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure, for year ending 30 June 1968;
Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for the service of the year ending 30 June 1968;
Particulars of Proposed Provision for Certain Expenditure in respect of the year ending 30 June 1968;
Government Securities on Issue at 30 June 1967; Commonwealth Income Tax Statistics, for income year 1964-65;
National Income and Expenditure 1966-67.
Upon which Senator Murphy had moved by way of amendment:
At the end of motion add the following words: but condemns the Budget because:
it places defence costs on those least able to pay them;
it fails to curb administrative waste and extravagance;
it defers and retrenches development projects; and
it allows social service and war pensioners to fall still further behind their fellow citizens’. and upon which Senator McManus had moved by way of amendment to Senator Murphy’s proposed amendment:
At end of proposed amendment add ‘; and the Senate is of the opinion that the Budget should be withdrawn and re-drafted to provide for:
increases giving justice to pensioners of all kinds to compensate for higher living costs; and
no postal increases pending reconstitution of postal administration under a statutory authority’.
– Mr President, when the debate was interrupted last night I was talking about the weir on the Ballonne River at St George. This project was started some years ago and about forty farms were under irrigation. During the dry spell, which we have experienced over the last 2 years or 3 years, this irrigation scheme which is 350 miles inland from the coast has proved its worth, is now to be extended. As I pointed out, the Queensland Government from its own resources is to spend$8.6m on this expansion, which will include more water storage and diversion channels. A greatly increased area will be irrigated. The Queensland Government is to be commended on its decision to support the enlargement of this scheme. I sincerely hope that before long the Commonwealth Government will make a decision on whether it can supply help for the Nogoa scheme in the central district of Queensland. I am pleased to see that the Australian Water Resources Council is expanding its work. Its vote in this Budget increases from $971,000 to$ 1,300,000. It is essential that, as far as possible, we know the full extent of our water resources and reserves so that long range plans can be drawn up to utilise those resources economically and to the maximum extent.
We must develop without delay the newly discovered areas of phosphatic rock discovered in Queensland. Some of these discoveries are a considerable distance inland but some are near the coast. It appears that if the problem of transport costs can be overcome, Australia is in a position where it can be independent of overseas sources of phosphatic rock in the not too distant future. But more important than this is the fact that much of these deposits has been found in an area where they could conceivably be used to rejuvenate land in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria. This land is in a good rainfall area but is deficient in fertilisers. The provision of a natural gas pipeline in South Australia was the subject of legislation that we debated at length a few days ago. Natural gas has been known to exist in Queensland for many years. Roma town was lit by natural gas at the turn of the century. Some of the old houses there still have gas fixtures on their walls. Recently vast new reserves have been proven in that area and a pipeline is to be built to Brisbane. Money for this is to be found by private enterprise in the same way as it was found for the building of the Moonie pipeline. As well as providing gas for lighting in Brisbane, this pipeline will provide gas for industrial use and for new big enterprises such as a fertiliser works which will help the commercial development of the area.
The Government is to be commended for its further support of our great sugar industry. An amount of $10m will be made available on the 1967 crop. The amount provided will rise to $15m if necessary to help the industry overcome a slump in world prices and to cover the period till a new world sugar agreement is negotiated. Increased subsidies amounting to almost $40m on phosphatic and nitrogenous fertilisers are to be provided. The subsidy on phosphatic fertiliser will rise by about $3. 5m and the subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers by about $3m. These increases show how successful the subsidies have been in increasing sales and usage of fertiliser in Australia.
– How much has the cost of superphosphate risen since the subsidy was introduced?
– I have not that figure but I think it is available to the honourable senator if he wishes to get it. The dairy industry is now assured of stability for at least 5 years. The butter and cheese bounty is to be continued at $27m a year despite considerable opposition in some quarters. Primary producers are also being helped to continue the development of their property by the making of the 20% special depreciation allowance a continuing concession instead of a terminating one. There is a new departure in the provision of an allowance for sub-divisional fencing which should greatly encourage the development of properties.
But it is in the field of education that the Commonwealth has come to the party in a big way. It is to contribute $194m this year to education throughout Australia. This is an increase of 35% on the provision made last year. I am very interested in our fishery resources, especially of tuna. Recently I saw two tuna canneries in Pago Pago in American Samoa and a can factory to supply both of those factories. It was notable that forty Japanese fishing ships were in the harbour and many more were at sea. I was told that these ships ranged as far as Australian coastal waters, the Hawaiian Islands and most of the Pacific area, taking fish to American Samoa for canning.
I am very pleased to see that an amount of $ 1.25m is to be provided for the Australian Tourist Commission, which is carrying out the work envisaged in the Bill that was passed earlier this year. Tourism is expanding rapidly in this country and is a source of overseas funds. Queensland has much to offer in this regard, from our Gold Coast up to the Great Barrier Reef and Cairns. The annual trek to Queensland in the winter time by motorists from southern States is growing and the cars are almost bumper to bumper at some periods. There has been a substantial increase this year.
I should like to refer to the incidence of probate and succession duties and. estate duties throughout the community. These duties are called by different names in different States. I would point out that the rate of Federal estate duty has not altered since 1941, and despite the fact that the levels of exemption have been raised col lections of Federal estate duty in 1966-67 were $41 m compared with $20m in 1955-56. In other words, collections doubled in 11 years.
Owing to the appreciation of values, estates of many small farmers have been subject to high valuations with consequent high rate of duty. In many cases no provision has been made to meet these duties so there have been forced sales to realise the money required. The big unknown factor confronting a farmer is the value which will be placed on his estate. It is very difficult for a man, if he is able to make provision for eventual payment of estate duty during his lifetime, to hazard a guess at the valuation which will be placed on his estate.
– Did the collections the honourable senator mentioned relate to both Federal and State duties?
– To Federal duties only. A farmer usually is not in a position to sign his property over to his sons or dependants during his lifetime because he has no other source of income. Neither is he usually in a position to take advantage of superannuation or life assurance because, in his younger years, he requires all his money for development and expansion. He has no spare funds at that stage in his life. In effect, those responsible for the payment of death duties are much worse off now because the Commonwealth Claims its duty on the amount left in the estate after all debts and State duties, often substantial, are paid.
The rates of State duty, like the Commonwealth rates, have not altered for some years. Although the levels of exemption have been raised in New South Wales and Queensland, collections of State duty amounted to $91. 4m in 1964-65 compared with $23m in 1955-56 and $15m in 1951-52. There has been a six-fold increase in 13 years. The percentage of duty paid to the States by the rural sector of the economy does not appear to be available, but in relation to the Commonwealth, which makes this information available, about 33% of revenue comes from the primary industry section despite the fact that that section represents only about 17% of the population.
The incidence of death duty is having a very detrimental effect on the rural sector. The trend is increasing. I suggest that immediate consideration be given to the system in operation in the United Kingdom where land is assessed, for duty purposes, at only one-half the sworn value. That would be a big help here. The United Kingdom has seen fit to do that and apparently the system is meeting with some success. An alternative is that the levels of exemption be raised considerably so that they will be more realistic when compared with the present value of estates. The increase from $800 to SI. 200 for income tax purposes in the allowable deduction for life assurance premiums and superannuation payments is most welcome, lt will be of some help in alleviating problems associated with the payment of estate duty.
I should like to refer now to the position of many country telephone subscribers, especially in view of the proposed increased charges. Many country telephone subscribers may 1150” their telephones only during restricted hours, usually from about 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. for 5 days a week, for a period on Saturday mornings and perhaps for 1 hour on Sundays. Restricted hours in New Zealand on the few exchanges that there are in that country, are much longer. Telephone operations are restricted to the hours from 6 a.m. to midnight, Mondays to Saturdays, and from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays. In Queensland there are about 1,200 telephone exchanges of which 800 operate on restricted hours.
These problems arc not easy to solve as it would be impracticable at present for all existing exchanges to provide a continuous service. The cost would be very great. The Postmaster-General’s Department has estimated that it would cost about S4m a year. There would be staffing difficulties, especially at small exchanges. We realise that there are these problems. But as a compromise, in order greatly to speed up the elimination of these part-time exchanges, perhaps groups of exchanges which are reasonably adjacent could be amalgamated in order to provide one full-time continuous service exchange. Alternatively, the number of subscribers necessary for a continuous service to be provided could be reduced from the present number of 40 to, say, 20, and the rate of installation of small automatic exchanges greatly speeded up. Incidentally, there are problems associated with installing the small automatic exchanges in country areas because their operations are limited to about 20 miles. A subscriber’s line cannot be much longer than 20 miles. These exchanges also have to be located near good roads so that a mechanic can reach them in a hour or so to service them if they break down. There are many parts of inland Australia where subscriber’s lines arc 50 miles or 100 miles long, or even longer, so this rules out the use of automatic exchanges in those areas because of the present state of development of this equipment.
In this day and age a small section of the people, about 40,000 telephone subscribers, should not be deprived of a continuous telephone service for any longer than absolutely necessary. Many rural telephone users, if they live near a centre with 40 or more telephones, have a continuous service. If they are near an exchange with fewer than 40 subscribers then their hours are restricted. There are over 40.000 such telephone users in Australia. I do not think it is right that these people should suffer such a disadvantage purely by an accident of location.
Certain proposals have been made about changing the system of control of the Post Office. I hope that a full examination will be made of these proposals before any action is taken. Members of Parliament irc elected to carry out the wishes of the people they represent and they should continue to exercise an influence on the administration of the Postmaster-General’s Department. The test of whether a telephone or post.il service should be provided should not be decided on the basis of whether it will make a profit, particularly in sparsely settled areas.
Mr Deputy President, as I said before, I believe this is a good Budget. I support it and I oppose both amendments which have been moved.
– Mr Deputy President, the Budget which is under discussion in this chamber today, and which has been under discussion since the Federal Treasurer (Mr McMahon) introduced it on 1 5th August, has been described by many people in various terms. The Treasurer himself, in an interview on television in Melbourne recently, described it as an investor’s budget and, above all, a businessman’s budget. Others have described it as a cynical budget. Some have labelled it a callous budget; others that it is a coldly calculated budget. I completely agree with all of these descriptions. Indeed, after reading the Budget and having considered its terms, I find it rather reminds me of people of whom it is said: They are trying to live up to the Jones next door’; people who over-indulge in lavish expenditure in order to keep their standards up to the standards of others. When one reads this Budget one can see this Government is engaging itself in lavish, luxurious and indeed exorbitant expenditure for its own comfort, its own status and its own privilege, and to further the interests of the large and powerful groups that it represents. For example, the Government has acquired, or is acquiring, a fleet of VIP aircraft at a cost of $21m. The original estimated cost was $10m. As against that, all that the Federal Treasurer can offer in this Budget to 800,000 elderly Australians who have given a lifetime of- service to this nation and who are eking out an existence on the miserably and niggardly pittance that is commonly referred to as the pension is merely sympathy. 1 refer to the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 21st August in which the Treasurer is reported as having said that he had sympathy for the pensioners because they had been left out of the Budget. He said:
Last year T was able to give them an increase of SI but when I saw the deficit I had- -
I emphasise the following words - and the other people I thought we had to look after, I had to recognise the difficulty. On this occasion I doubted if the economy could afford it.
Assuming the Treasurer had given the Australian pensioners a mere increase of 50 cents as some compensation for the rising cost of living in the last three or four months, it would have cost only about $25m - a sum equivalent to what this Government is spending on the purchase of VIP aircraft for the Ministers who, for the time being, occupy the treasury bench of the Commonwealth.
When one appreciates that the Government is budgeting for an estimated increase of $2,000m in the gross national product this financial year, an adjustment of the revenue to provide $25m to give the pensioners a mere increase of 50 cents in their weekly pittance to compensate them for the rising cost, of living would be a mere drop in the bucket. Since last May, when this Parliament was last in session, the costs of the basic commodities required by elderly people and wage and salary earners have gone up. And they are going up day after day. Just to name a few of them, since last May the price of bread, sugar, petrol and beer has increased. Doctors’ fees also have risen. But the needs of the pensioners are conveniently overlooked and ignored by this Government, because, according to the Federal Treasurer, other people whom he thought the Government had to look after had to be catered for and given first priority. According to the Treasurer, their needs far outweigh the basic requirements of those who have given a lifetime of service to Australia. But, I suppose, in a fashion that is typical of this Government, the Federal Treasurer and the rest of the Ministers think that the pensioners can continue to fall back on charity. Or perhaps they think that the Treasurer’s sympathy will bc sufficient to get them through this financial year.
Let us consider some of the other people who, as the Treasurer seemed to boast, had to be looked after in this Budget. Firstly there are the twenty-six Ministers of this Government who occupy the front bench in this Parliament merely because for the time being the Liberal and Country Parties are in office and because they appear to be in favour with the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt). Obviously, on their showing in this place and in another place, some of them are not on the front bench because of their administrative ability, political acumen or qualities of leadership. In this chamber day after day we see Minister after Minister standing up to answer a question that is asked of him without notice and requesting that the question be placed on the notice paper because he is unable to provide the answer to it.
Unfortunately for the Australian people who are entitled to have information relating to the affairs of government, when these questions are placed on the notice paper they seem to be relegated to the dusty pigeon-holes of bureaucracy. For instance, I placed a question on the notice paper of the Senate on 23rd February this year - about 6 months ago. It concerns a very important, although perhaps small, section of the Australian community. It relates to Australian inventors and inventions. It is a simple question. In order to bring it to the notice of the Government once again I will take time to read it. It appears on the notice paper in this form:
Notice given 23 February
Senator McClelland: To ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister -
Has an interdepartmental committee been established to consider what, if anything, can be done to assist Australian inventors?
When is the report of the committee expected to be available?
To whom is the report to be furnished?
Will the contents of the report be made available to senators and members?
With great respect to the people who are responsible for providing answers to questions of that nature, I say that I would have thought that the answer to each of those questions would have been quite simple. But from 23rd February until now the Government has done nothing about answering the question. As far as I know, no reply is forthcoming. Senator Turnbull has been on his feet this morning asking what has happened to questions that he placed on the notice paper as long ago as 8th March last. Perhaps these things do not matter to this Government because the people immediately concerned with the answers to the questions, although they are a very important section of the comunity, are only small in numbers and therefore are not in the category of a political pressure group. While questions are unanswered here ministers are flitting around Australia like hawks in the sky, pouncing on a statistic here, prattling on a word there, kicking around the dusty old Commo can and still trying to whip up a psychology of fear.
There is another group in the category of other people whom the Government had to look after, to use the Treasurer’s words. They are the wealthy businessmen who have been catered for in this Budget. The Treasurer has said that this is an investors’ budget and above all a businessmen’s budget. I certainly agree with that description. Let us compare the situation of one group of Australians with that of another group of Australians - the businessmen on the one hand and the pensioners on the other. The businessman is now allowed to deduct from his taxable income $1,200 in respect of life insurance investments. People are allowed to claim $24 a week as a taxation deduction if they can afford to pay $24 a week in life insurance premiums. Incidentally, that amount is almost equivalent to twice the weekly pension. A great part of that amount can be written off as a taxation deduction. But not one cent piece is given to the pensioners in this Budget
Another group of Australians who have been completely overlooked is the Aboriginal section of the community. Only 3 months ago a referendum was held throughout the country and an overwhelming vote was recorded by Australians on the question whether the Commonwealth should have power to legislate for our Aboriginals. But, despite the fact that the Government has had 3 months in which to give full thought to a very serious problem, all that is said in the Budget is that detailed and careful consideration is being given to it. Obviously, on any analysis of the Budget, it is not one that makes an equitable distribution of the wealth of this nation. Ministers can fly around in their VIP aircraft. Businessmen receive large taxation concessions. Pensioners receive merely the sympathy of the Treasurer. Aboriginals receive an acknowledgement of their problems.
Then there is this uncontrolled and obviously extravagant expenditure on the purchase of weapons of war from overseas nations. Ministers commonly refer to these weapons as military hardware and bureaucrats commonly refer to them as sophisticated weapons. Whichever terminology is used, I suggest that it is sheer murder of the English language. These things are guns, ships and aircraft - weapons of war - on the purchase of which in this one financial year alone this nation is spending $3 50m abroad. The Treasurer himself seems to have a great many misgivings about this venture. He has pointed out that 5 years ago our external defence costs - that is, the money spent abroad on defence purchases - were well under $100m a year, but that this year they could rise to well above $350m. In other words, 30% of the total amount being spent by this Government on defence is going abroad and is being lost to this country.
I have just read the defence statement made by Sir Robert Menzies in 1964, when he was Prime Minister. For all this expenditure on defence and for the conscription of young Australians now taking place, he based the bulk of his argument in November 1964 on a possible threat to Australia and New Guinea from Indonesia. At page 2716 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 10th November 1964 the then Prime Minister said:
If Indonesian attacks continue, Malaysia may find it intolerable to confine defensive measures to the guarding of Malaysia’s shores and jungles against Indonesian intrusion. These Indonesian attacks may create a real risk of war, a war so hopelessly unprofitable to Indonesia that it is hard to understand how any leader concerned with the well-being of the ordinary men and women of his country could seriously be prepared to provoke it. Indeed we must prepare for all eventualities including the control and, if necessary, defence on the frontier between West New Guinea and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Meanwhile, by his cultivation of the Communist powers, President Sukarno is exercising an influence in South East Asia which could weaken resistance to Communism. lt must be conceded, therefore, that the risks of our situation in this corner of the world have increased.
That was in 1964. In order to build up a defence structure - the build up is still going on - the then Prime Minister based his arguments and decisions on the IndonesianMalaysianAustralian situation at that time.
What is the situation now? Confrontation between Malaysia and Indonesia has ceased. Malaysia and Indonesia are at peace and are diplomatically recognising one another. New Guinea, according to the present Government, is no longer under a threat of attack from Indonesia. In this year of record sales of wheat, steel, wool and other products to mainland China, in this year in which China obviously is undergoing great internal disturbance, when any threat that once might have existed is now gone, the Australian Government increases defence expenditure to $1,1 18m. Over $350m of it will be spent abroad on the purchase of what Ministers call military hardware. The $1,1 18m is 18% over and above the 1966-67 defence allocation and that allocation was 27% over and above the 1965 defence allocation. Is it any wonder that Australians are becoming concerned about the situation?
In February 1965 the then Minister for Defence, Senator Paltridge, went to the United States of America and negotiated a defence deal with the American Secretary of Defence, Mr McNamara. According to the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 11th February 1965, a joint communique was issued at that time by Senator Paltridge and by Mr McNamara. The report in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ stated:
The communique said the principal new business discussed by the two Ministers was plans ami implementation of the Australian Government’s three year defence programme which the Prime Minister, Sis., Robert Menzies, announced in November last’ year.
It said Australia would buy from the United States over the next three years ‘various defence articles and services’ at a cost of about £!56m.
– Does that figure include the cost of the Fill?
– That figure was exclusive of the cost of the Fill. Despite the fact that 2i years ago Australia was going to purchase, over 3 years and at a cost of about f 156m, some package deals in defence, in this year alone Australia is spending $350m abroad on defence equipment. Comparing the statements and the figures, is it any wonder that Australians are having a second look at the Government’s defence policy and the manner in which the expenditure is being incurred? What effect is this type of expenditure having on Australians, on Australian thought and on Australian opinion?
In February 1966 a by-election for the Federal seat of Dawson was held. During the course of that election campaign a meeting in Mackay was addressed by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt). According to the Prime Minister, in February 1966 Australia was spending $800m on defence. Today the figure is $1,1 18m - an increase of nearly 50% in a period of about 17 months. A report in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 17th February 1966, stated:
The Prime Minister, Mr Holt, tonight reaffirmed that Australia could not increase its defence spending without ‘great detriment’ to national development.
The report went on to say:
Mr Holt said Australia’s present economic problem was one of balance.
It would plainly be of great detriment to us - however sound we might regard the necessity - to attempt to devote too large a proportion of our resources to the defence field,’ Mr Holt said.
That statement was made in February 1966 when Australia was incurring a defence expenditure of S800m. Today, 17 months afterwards, the figure has increased astronomically to $1,1 18m. But if the Prime Minister’s statement is insufficient warning, surely one can read between the lines of the Budget speech of the Treasurer. In his Budget speech he seemed to express some concern about this rate of expenditure that is being incurred. He said:
It is not, however, the present level of defence spending so much as the rate of escalation that concerns us most. Plainly we cannot continue for long to meet anything like the rate of increase of recent years without deep impairment of the economy.
The concluded negotiation between the late Senator Paltridge and Mr McNamara, the United States Secretary of Defence, occurred only 2 years ago, and if one reads the terms of the Loan (Defence) Bill of May last year one will see that the amount to be borrowed is to be repaid in 14 half-yearly instalments. The present rate of defence expenditure therefore will be maintained for at least another 5 years, with an annual escalating cost. The Treasurer, in his very own words, has expressed concern at the situation that is developing. Implicit in the Treasurer’s words is the thought that Australia and this Government must have a very close look at the situation. The Treasurer said:
But we would not be helping either ourselves or our allies were we to attempt to overreach our capacity. Defence subtracts from the resources available for growth.
He is repeating, as it were, the remarks of the Prime Minister in Mackay in February 1966. Such statements are forcing me rapidly to the conclusion that at present Australians are the victims of an obvious internal struggle for power being waged between the bureaucrats of the Treasury and the bureaucrats of the defence departments in the higher echelons of the Public Service. Quite clearly while such expenditure is indulged in we are unable to devote national funds to national development to anywhere near the degree that we should be doing. The Government has failed to take steps to eliminate poverty and squalor in a large section of the Australian community. The pension is a mere $13 a week and the action of the Government in increasing postal charges has served only to deepen the poverty and bitterness of pensioners. Obviously the increased postal charges will increase cost’s and place a further burden on Australian pensioners and wage and salary earners. It is also obvious that the Government is overreaching its economic capacity.
I wish now to refer to war pensioners. I listened with interest last night to the speech of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) because I thought that he would refer to any repatriation provision that the Government had made in the Budget for war pension entitlements, or at least to what the Government contemplated doing in the future. But the Minister said not one word about repatriation requirements or benefits. He kicked the Commo can around. What has this Government done in the Budget to ameliorate the conditions complained of by veterans of the Boer War, World War I and World War II, the Korean War and now our young boys coming back from Vietnam? Let me mention the conditions applying to the young men who were conscripted to go to war in Vietnam. Recently I asked a question of the Minister for Repatriation concerning certain condition’s at the Ingleburn Base Hospital, New South Wales. He told me that the matter was not within his jurisdiction but was a matter for the Minister for the Army (Mr Malcolm Fraser). Therefore he suggested that I place the question on the notice paper, but I shall quote now from ‘Reveille’, the official journal of the New South Wales Branch of the Returned Servicemen’s League. At page 25 of the issue of 1st August 1967 this article appeared under the heading ‘Amenities - Ingleburn Hospital’:
Much was previously heard, particularly in metropolitan sub-branch circles, regarding the paucity of amenities originally provided for the sick and wounded Vietnam boys, now patients in No. 2 Base Hospital, Ingleburn.
Representations to governmental departments and the generosity of many sub-branches and clubs have done a great deal to obviate what was a most unfortunate position, but it has now been ascertained that a dire need exists for a therapy pool in which wounded and degenerated limbs may be properly exercised.
The Government intends to move the hospital in 3 to 5 years and so will not expend public moneys on the installation of this pool.
The Riverstone-Schofield RSL Club was willing to finance this project on their own, but, we would like Mr Askin and Mr McMahon to take special note of the fact that due to recent increases in taxation, this very generous Club has currently found the scheme to be beyond their means.
Construction will cost in the vicinity of $2,000 and we contend that many precious limbs may be saved and improved during the 3 to 5 year period mentioned above.
Then follows an appeal for $2,000 to be donated by members of the RSL so that a therapy pool may be constructed at the Ingleburn Base Hospital. Even if the hospital is to be shifted in 3 to 5 years time, surely expenditure of $2,000 on a pool for such a good cause should be indulged in by the Government. Yesterday a letter on the subject appeared in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’. I understand that in another place yesterday the Minister for the Army replied to the criticism contained in the letter, but if time permitted a lot more could be said. Senator Wright, during the course of his speech in the AddressinReply debate, had a lot to say about repatriation arrangements and benefits awarded by the Government to ex-servicemen, but apart from the increased benefit of 50c a week for unfortunate war orphans, all that the Government seems able to do is to reduce expenditure by about $13. 5m for war service homes.
– Bc a little truthful about that, senator.
– Then what is the situation?
– What is the effect of the extension of the defence forces retirement benefits?
– Perhaps Senator Webster will let me read what 1 have in front of me.
– Perhaps the honourable senator was going to conclude by saying that war service homes were just about all taken up, anyway.
– I have something to say about war service homes. The Treasurer in the Budget Speech said that the provision for war service homes had been reduced to $45,500,000 which is $13,600,000 less than the amount disbursed last year. If that is not a reduction of about $13. 5m in the allocation for war service homes, then frankly I do not know simple arithmetic.
– The reason lor the reduction of the allocation was the lessening in demand for war service homes.
– The Minister’s interjection is very interesting, because on 27th June last I received a letter irc,rn the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) following my representations to her to give consideration to increasing the maximum loan available under war service homes legislation from $7,000 to $10,000. Among other things, the Minister said:
You will appreciate that the Government has many calls on its funds and there are limits to the amount of money which can be allocated for the purpose of providing war service homes. An increase in the maximum loan could reduce the number of applicants that could be assisted within the total funds available.
If the Government wishes to retain the existing amount of loan in order to meet any backlag in applications, why could it not continue the previous total allocation of about $59m? If the Government wanted to increase the maximum loan, why could not the total allocation of about $59 have been continued? But the allocation has been reduced at a time when 6,000 young Australians are engaged in the Vietnam conflict. We have Canberra Bombers engaged in air operations in Vietnam. HMAS ‘Hobart’ is engaged in shelling shore installations in North Vietnam. I would have thought that if this Government had been consistent - indeed, inconsistency throughout its administration seems to be the order of the day - it would have looked closely at extending the entitlements of Australian ex-servicemen. ls it any wonder that on 16th August last in Sydney, the day after the Budget was presented, the New South Wales branch of the Returned Services League carried a resolution critical of the Budget? The resolution stated:
This meeting of the NSW branch of the RSL assembled in Congress and representing over 100,000 financial members deplores the fact that no provision has been made in the Budget for a review and increase in war pensions and funeral grant and hospitalisation of Boer War and World War I personnel and we request immediately reconsideration of the RSL pension submissions which have been completely ignored.
Mr Deputy President, this Government has let the Australian side down badly. The Government is tired. It is becoming rattled at the mounting criticism which is being levelled at it. It is undeniable that many Government backbenchers have much more ability than some of the incompetents who now hold ministerial rank. The Budget falls far short of catering for the needs of the Australian people. It fails dismally to set a standard and to give the vision of leadership that Australians so earnestly seek. The Government is weak in leadership. It is unsure. lt is hesitant. All this is evidenced by the Budget papers. I therefore support the amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
– It would be the understatement of this Budget debate if I were to say that Senator McClelland dealt with a few important subjects. He dealt with a large variety of subjects. Every now and again the notice paper which we see every day received a mention. When Government policy decisions came up for criticism - quite apart from personalities in the Parliament and the Ministers concerned - there was, as is ever present in so many sectors of the Australian Labor Party, scathing reference to the bureaucrats. This appears to be a growing cancer within the outlook of the Australian Labor Party. If a public servant rises to a position at or near the head of a department he becomes in Labor eyes a bureaucrat. In the Senate we enjoy freedom of speech. But so often we find that there arc those who are tempted to use this place as a coward’s castle. Public servants, who are unable to reply, are referred to scathingly as bureaucrats. Yet, these remarks are made by people who, if Labor could win government, daily would put more controls on the people during every session of Parliament. The only way in which they would be able to do this efficiently would be to act on the advice of the public servants because I do not think that the Australian Labor Party has the ability within its ranks to form an efficient Cabinet. This is what Australia has become accustomed to be governed by over the last 18 years.
Senator McClelland made a number of references to social services and repatriation. It was stated quite clearly that if the Government had given a rise of 50c a week to pensioners it would have cost the nation a mere $25m. There are two aspects of the matter. First it is known as an absolute fact of life - not only a political fact of life - that if social service benefits are increased repatriation benefits are increased also. This brings into the fold all the beneficiaries under Commonwealth jurisdiction including many people who receive fringe benefits under Commonwealth legislation, lt is wrong to say that an increase of 50c per week to pensioners would cost this nation only $25m in this financial year. What it is true to say in the political climate in which we are Jiving today, when the Australian Labor Party is literally gasping for breath in trying to keep its head above water, is that if the Government had increased every Commonwealth social service benefit and every repatriation benefit by 50c per week the Labor Party would be saying at this stage: ‘What a measly, miserly Government. It has spent this amount on this thing and that thing. It has spent such and such an amount on defence and such and such an amount on development. But all it will give to the pensioners is another 50c per week.’ So, we in government, with all the responsibility that entails and with the proved confidence of the Australian people - remember that - will take all the dirt and all the sarcasm that the Australian Labor Party can dish out. The people are getting sick of this attitude.
I believe that it is true to say of the Australian Labor Party today that it will not accept any responsibility regarding the economic soundness of this country. It will not view the whole national picture. Australia is a nation of very great and growing importance in the part of the world which it is blessed to occupy. In considering this debate we must realise that there is a Senate election looming. We must realise also the difficulties that the main Opposition Party has gone through. We must realise the encouragement that it is getting out of its luckily obtained - not won, but luckily obtained - majority in this Senate. It is using this majority mischievously. It is not using this majority to benefit the people of Australia in any way. Its new leaders - I emphasise that - are using this majority to frustrate the progress and development of the policy of a stable government. I will have more to say about this as I go on. But this is what we must realise as we take part
In this debate which concerns the main fiscal policy and all aspects of policy of a very important nation.
The fact is that this Budget has been accepted widely. Because it has been accepted, references to it have disappeared from our newspapers. The people realise that this Administration has acted wisely in carrying on a set pattern of development, giving a fair deal to the people, increasing its trade relations and making its defences stronger. There have been no upsetting changes to mar the business, trade and commerce of this country. We in Australia are particularly fortunate, when we think of our mother country and the dilemma in which it has been placed in recent years - I do not say because of, but with, a Labor Government under Harold Wilson. What is the situation there? Do business, the people, and those who trade with Great Britain know what is to be the policy of that country from day to day? In one fell swoop a great proportion, if not all, of the main Cabinet heads fell into the political basket and one man has taken sole responsibility for the economic policy of Great Britain, which is nearer to a political dictatorship under Labor than it has ever been in its history that we can remember.
I point out to honourable senators that we in Australia are fortunate that no such vast changes of policy have had to be made because of the trend that has been followed by the Liberal-Country Party Government. However, there would not be a senator or member of the House of Representatives who would say that all of one’s hopes and wishes in respect of budgeting had been fulfilled in the document that was presented here a little over a fortnight ago. Many of us wanted various improvements in conditions for various sections of the community. The Government has to consider the overall situation, knowing that there is a Senate election coming on and knowing how its policy has been frustrated by the present set up in the Senate. Political parties with less responsibility than those which comprise the present Government may have been tempted to woo the people’s vote by casting aside responsibility for the people’s general welfare and by putting out baits so that three senators out of five in each State would be returned under their own banner. But there is not one vestige of political bribery or enticement in the Budget papers that are before us. The Government has decided to carry on without baits and without political bribery and to let the people judge. We remember how soundly the people indicated that they can judge when they voted at the last election for the House of Representatives.
– And also in Corio.
– I am glad of the interjection from Senator Cavanagh, lt has been great to see the new heart put into the Australian Labor Party as a result of the Corio by-election. For members of that Party it was a wonderful victory. Now their hearts are beating fast. Their enthusiasm is starting to gain ground and they look to the Capricornia by-election; but they will take no action in this Senate or in another place to send that other place to the electors to see whether in their eyes criticism of this Government is valid. Let us wait and see how the people will vote in the Capricornia by-election. If Labor does not win, honourable senators opposite should hang their heads in shame forever. If it just scrapes in, good luck to it. If the Liberal Party gets a bashing in Capricornia I will bc quite open in saying: ‘Look out. The people are getting a bit fed up.’ But wait and see. I am quite prepared to leave it to the people of Capricornia, now that the honourable senator has raised the subject To return to the Budget, what pleases me is the increase in child endowment for larger families. I believe this is a good step forward. I have never been in favour of, and I have spoken against, the raising of child endowment for the first child.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.28 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I was calmly putting to the Senate my views on child endowment. I had stated that over the years I had not advocated or supported a general increase in child endowment but I am pleased at the Government’s new attitude as evidenced by the announcement in the Budget. I believe that families throughout Australia will be grateful that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has been able to increase the permissible deduction, for income tax purposes, in respect of dependants.
We are being criticised by the Opposition because the permissible taxation deduction in respect of insurance premiums and payments to superannuation funds has been increased. That is an unfair attitude for the Opposition to adopt. We, as the National Government, surely should do all in our power to encourage the people to take up of their own free will, insurance for the future, be it in the form of contributions to superannuation fund or in the form of insurance premiums, thus providing for the education and future welfare of their children. Insurance is a form of saving. The payment of insurance premiums from one’s earnings is a painless extraction. This is a much more attractive proposition than having one’s earnings filched by taxation and other methods. When the taxpayers of Australia are prepared to enter into this form of business undertaking, this investment for the future, surely the central Government should give them encouragement.
The Australian economy as a whole receives the advantage of the premiums collected from contributors by insurance companies. We are chided because we encourage overseas investment. We encourage overseas investment because not enough capital is available in Australia te cope with the projects which are screaming out for development. The insurance companies have become large lenders of the earnings of Australians to Australia’s developmental projects. So the more money that is accumulated in the form of people’s savings by payments to insurance companies, the more Australian capital there is for investment in Australia’s development. There is one point which I think we all should realise with enthusiasm and for which we should give just credit to the insurance companies. The major life offices have shown a comparatively new outlook on the type of investment in which they will put their money. They are no longer tied to the old fashioned and limited sources of investment. They are now going into developmental projects. In a free country, when people are prepared to put money aside so that they will have for their retirement an income which will put them out of the range of Commonwealth social service benefits, surely we, as members of Parliament, should do all we can to encourage their self-appointed thrift throughout life.
This brings me to the means test. I am never ashamed to admit, or to express pleasure about, the fact that there is a section of the Australian Labor Party which is now thinking my way in expressing opposition to the immediate lifting of the means test in Australia. When speaking in the Budget debate last year 1 expressed my opposition to the immediate lifting of the means lest for social service benefits, and I repeat it today. In all the reading that I have done on this subject, and in all the speeches that I have listened to, I have never seen or heard anyone put up a case as to how the abolition of the means test could be financed. Nor has anyone set out in detail what particular spheres of the means test applying to social service benefits should be abolished. I do not want to repeat the speech I made last year, but I will throw one question into the ring: Would t the Opposition abolish the means test applying to unemployment and sickness benefits? Another reason why I oppose the abolition of the means test - and if there is any sincerity in the Opposition’s amendment to this Budget’ honourable senators opposite will try to answer this argument - is that undoubtedly there would have to be a very heavy increase in taxation particularly in the early years of abolition. To my way of thinking, it would have to come from increased taxation, be it through a tax on beer, cigarettes, or anything else. That would be a severe impost on the people. The people who would be most harshly hit by increased taxation, whether it be direct or indirect, would be those in the middle income group, and those in the middle income group in Australia are the younger people with families to rear, educate and start off in life. I do not believe that this group can stand the great increase in taxation that would be needed to finance the abolition of the means test.
If it was decided not to inflict this impost on the family man or on the people in the middle income group but to hit the big salary earners and companies with heavy taxation increases, I believe the ultimate result would be to destroy the incentive of the high income earners who are now paying $1.25 out of every $2 by way of tax. If this important group in our society were to be slugged another 30c or 40c in every $2 for income tax, the incentive, the desire to work and the desire to develop this country would be taken from them. Once these things are taken from the Australian people we will start to go down the drain - to lower every element in our national life.
I am not one of those who derives great pleasure from reading of what appear to be fantastic profits made by some Australian companies, but I believe that if company tax were to be used as a means of raising the money to finance the cost of abolishing the means test unemployment would follow in its wake, because companies will not stay in existence if their profits are taken away in taxation. On the contrary, they would get out of the consumers as much as they could by way of increased prices. So the people in the middle income group would be hit again. I do not believe that this Government should, nor do I think it ever will, take such action as would stop the development of the country or lower its living standards. 1 remind the Senate that when, on Australia Day a couple of years ago, our Prime Minister came into office, he announced clearly that the three main prongs of his Government’s policy would be the development of Australia, the defence of Australia and the maintenance of high standards of living in a happy democratic country. I believe that, in our heart nf hearts, we all want that. Therefore, I have no political respect whatsoever for the irresponsible people - I believe I describe them correctly - be they parliamentarians, academics or business tycoons, who clamour for the Government to increase benefits, to make more money available for this and for that, and then in the next breath criticise the Government for increasing taxation or other imposts such as postal charges. It is irresponsible to adopt the attitude that it does not matter to the Government if any suggested benefit costs, say, an additional sum of SI 5m, that the Government can get it quite easily and then, when the Government does propose raising more money for these purposes, to criticise it just as severely. I believe it is quite true to say that now in the middle of 1967 we have a country whose rate of development is on the increase, whose defences ar: costly, whose commitments for defence are heavy and distasteful, and that we have a nation that has powerful friends who appreciate our potential and who know that we can be trusted in the councils of the world. That, after all, is one of the essentials to the well being of our people.
So when we start to criticise the Government let us realise that a happy, prosperous, developing nation with good friends and good defences is essential to the well being of even those who. through force of circumstances, have to exist on social service benefits. Talking about development and the great potential of this country reminds me of a reply given by the Prime Minister off the cuff when he was in America recently and was asked what was the situation with relation to mineral development in Western Australia. His reply was: ‘I do not know. I have not been in Australia for a fortnight’
Let me depart now from a discussion on the Budget itself to express some views on this House of the National Parliament. For a long time now I have said that the Senate is a House eminently suited to the use of committees. I am still of that opinion, but I believe that we must ensure that in attempting to form committees the Senate does not, by its own actions, bring itself into such disrepute that no committees will be formed. In viewing this question objectively, one has to look at the situation of the Government and of the Opposition. I believe in the old saying that he who is not with us Ls against us. When referring to the Opposition I refer to those parties or independent senator’s who are not members of the Government parties.
– Do you mean that if you are in Opposition you have had it?
– No government in any House of Parliament or in any country can allow the Opposition to take charge of the business of the government of the country. There is no parliamentarian who would not agree with that view. It would be an impossible state of affairs if an Opposition took charge of the government of the country. The appointment of committees of the Senate must be looked at with that point in mind. I submit that where committees of the Senate are concerned the Opposition should take the attitude that by right it is an advisory body or that it is here to act in an advisory capacity to the Government.
The Government’s attitude has been very clear. It agreed to the setting up of a committee to consider certain aspects of television, which was a new medium in Australia. It also agreed to the setting up of a committee to consider certain aspects of maritime services. Another committee was set up to consider road safety. At the moment two committees are in operation - one on containerisation and the other on the practicability of the early adoption of the metric system of weights and measures in Australia. I believe that committees such as these are suitable to the work of the Senate. The Senate can give great service to the country by having committees on such subjects.
But recently, particularly this year, the attitude of the Opposition to Senate committees has changed. I believe that the new attitude, if it is not halted, will sound the death knell of Senate committees which could be valuable. On the notice paper there are Opposition motions for the formation of Senate committees. If the terms of reference that the Opposition is trying to give these committees are studied as I have studied them, wilh an unbiased mind, we find in them nothing at all to improve the method of government, nothing that would result in any additional enlightenment of the people or the Parliament on any matter of public importance and nothing that would raise the status of Australia in the eyes of its neighbours, its allies or the people of any other country. We search in vain through all the Opposition motions for the appointment of Senate committees to find any constructive idea.
The theme that has been developed by the Opposition in its alleged desire to form Senate committees has been the raising of matters that could embarrass the Government, frustrate it in putting its policy into operation or even frustrate it in preparing policy on fiscal matters of major importance to the Australian people. I express my opinion without fear or favour when I say that it is not right to set up a committee of the Senate whose findings will have a bearing on any major aspect of the fiscal policy of the Government. It is the responsibility and duty of the Government to propound its fiscal policy, and that policy must be accepted or rejected by the Parliament. If the Opposition had or does get its way on some of its proposals to form committees, the formation of those committees will result from the’ desire of the Opposition to have a means by which it can keep up, in session and out of session, a flow of criticism of aspects of the Government’s financial policy.
– Does the honourable senator suggest that we should not criticise?
– Members of the Opposition may do all the criticising they like of any aspect or all aspects of the Government’s fiscal policy; but I believe that it is wrong for them to attempt to set up a parliamentary committee by means of which they and other people can indulge in criticism of the Government’s fiscal policy. I go so far as to say, quite calmly and after thought, that this is a low political trick which we on this side of the chamber will not tolerate.
I make one other point about the attempts to set up Senate committees. I refer to the proposal for a committee on repatriation. A certain proposition was put to the Senate by a Government senator who has done a tremendous amount of work with the greatest of ability and sincerity in order to get across his views on repatriation. 1 do not believe that I am exaggerating when I say that the next day the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy), without one word to the Liberal senator who was the originator of the idea, gave notice of motion for the appointment of a Senate committee whose terms of reference were tied to the original idea. If that is not low politics I do not know a more apt expression for it. It was a blatant effort to use the current majority power of the Opposition in the Senate not to improve anything for the people but as a means of continuing antiGovernment propaganda. If we study the words of that notice of motion, we see that none of its clauses would have helped any ex-service man or woman or their dependants. I believe that if the committee had been set up by the Senate the Government would have been in duty bound to cease its examination of repatriation needs because the Senate had set up a committee to inquire into them.
I know that on the day of the debate on that motion members of the Opposition were able to produce telegrams saying that the Returned Services League supported their attitude and wanted the committee set up. But I believe that in the annals of the RSL it will be acknowledged that that was a political faux pas that a few of its members have made against the wishes of the sincere and dedicated men who guide the destinies of the League from year to year.
– The telegram came from the President.
– I believe that what I have said is true. If the setting up of Senate committees is to be aimed at causing political interference and jeopardising government policy, something which could be a valuable adjunct to the National Parliament will be killed forever.
I want to deal with a subject in which, for many years, the Commonwealth took little real interest, and in relation to which under the Constitution it had no great power. However, the subject has come well into the fiscal policy of the Government. I refer to education in all its aspects. I do not intend to use this debate to have recorded in Hansard all the good points of the Government’s policy in respect to education. But I do want to say that until this Government came into the field of education, the Australian Labor Party had not given the matter a thought. Then the new leaders of the Australian Labor Party in the Senate introduced motions, questions and debates on every aspect of education. The trade unions, the workers and the people were forgotten as the new regime tried to hop on what was proving to be a popular bandwagon put into operation by this Government. When these debates took place a number of honourable senators opposite were very embarrassed to see the belting that the Australian Labor Party’s policy - or lack of it - took. They were astonished when answers were given from this side of the Senate as to what the Government was doing in respect to education and how highly regarded its policy was throughout the nation.
I want to add to my remarks about committees. If the Opposition says that the Government must not only accept but enact all the recommendations submitted by Committees, it will be dealing another blow to the successful formation of committees in the Senate. The Opposition has adopted an extraordinary attitude in respect to com mittees of the Parliament or committees set up by the Government; it is using those committees purely as a means of continually criticising the Government. I refer in particular to the Martin report on education. The Opposition searched every paragraph of that report, and any recommendation that was not immediately enacted by the Government - I refer particularly to teacher training - brought forth many hours of criticism of the Government. The River Murray Commission made a finding which the Government agreed to consider. The Opposition criticised the Government for accepting the finding of the Commission, saying that the Government was inconsistent. To criticise a government with the manifold responsibilities of this Government because it does not put into operation all the findings of a committee is quite unreasonable.
I wish to deal now with a field into which this Government has entered with far greater enthusiasm and far more money than any other government in the history of federation. I refer to the Government’s policy on housing. I believe that the more people whom the Government and private enterprise can help to become owners of their own homes or apartments, the better it is for the family life, security and development of this nation. In recent years our developing policy on housing has gone a long way towards solving the many problems that the young home seekers in particular have to face.
In the Budget $130m has been provided to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. This money will be expended by the States on homes that the States wish to build and homes that the Commonwealth desires to be built in any individual State for service personnel. That sum will help to build 17,000 homes in Australia in the current financial year. That means that approximately $7,600 per home will be available to home seekers. The financial year 1966-67 has seen a rapid increase in home building. Early last year the cry was about the short fall in home building. The Government studied the situation, injected more money into the industry, renewed the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and increased the number of houses built. The average yearly construction is 112,000 dwellings. Some of the States that are governed by Labor
Governments object to one part of the agreement - the provision that 30% of the Commonwealth money must be available for loans to home building societies or accepted organisations. This idea was adopted for the benefit of people without Government assistance who wanted to build, and it has caught on with the home seekers. The building societies have grown from strength to strength and are playing an increasingly important and popular part in the provision of homes in Australia. 1 came across some rather interesting figures which indicate that the Government’s policy in insisting that 30% of the money provided should go to building societies and accepted institutions had the result that on the average, toward the cost of each house built by a State Government the Commonwealth Government provided $6,391. But in the Home Builders Account there was provided for each house only $5,234 of Commonwealth money. So it is clear that by providing Commonwealth money direct to the Home Builders Account more homes are built than if a similar amount were provided to the State housing departments; and the more houses the better.
In addition to participating in the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, the Commonwealth Government is playing an important part in other aspects of home building. A total of another $100m of Commonwealth money is being expended in the current financial year on homes in Australia. I am sure that honourable senators on both sides of the chamber appreciated the introduction of tax free grants to young people with home savings accounts. Since the introduction of the scheme in 1964 $40m has been paid out for this purpose. There is no need for me to elaborate on the wonderful work done in providing homes for the aged by organisations and charitable and religious bodies. The provision of this necessity for aged people has been greatly helped by legislation authorising the payment by the Commonwealth of grants on a basis of $2 for $1.
In respect of war service homes the Commonwealth carries the complete responsibility in its Territories. In all, a total of about $232m of Commonwealth money is being invested in the current financial year in home building in Australia. The value to our economy is terrific. Before a house is built, action starts back in the forests. By the time a house is built, furnished and occupied practically every aspect of our major industries in Australia has played a part. As a consequence, work is provided for Australians. The more closely this policy can be followed the more often will we as members of the Federal Parliament be able to say that we are acting in relation to a special aspect of government which is of great importance to the people.
I disagree sincerely and wholeheartedly with the amendment moved by the Opposition. It does not ring true to me. Other honourable senators have pointed out the absurdity of the condemnation of the Budget in the first paragraph of the amendment which states that the Budget ‘places defence costs on those least able to pay them’. Defence costs are met from loan moneys for capital expenditure and from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. It is absurd for any party or person to say that any part of defence costs is being placed unfairly on a single clement of the Australian community. If honourable senators opposite believe that defence costs incurred by the Government are causing rates of taxation to be too high, or that the money should be spent on something else, they should move that the defence vote be reduced. They should not waste our time by including such an innocuous and stupid clause as this in a suggested amendment to the motion that the Senate take note of the Budget papers.
Perhaps the amendment was written by someone in a hurry over a meal or by someone dashing into the House. I do not know. But surely no meeting cf levelheaded men elected to Parliament would seriously consider including in print as part of their amendment the wording of the fourth paragraph, which in effect reads condemns the Budget because it allows social service and war pensioners to fall still further behind their fellow citizens’. 1 appreciate that it means to convey to the public that the Opposition is condemning the Budget because it allows the spending power, income or financial status of social services and war pensioners to fall behind that of the public; but if you read it sensibly and literally that is not its meaning. That is why I make the unanswerable accusation or allegation that it is a phoney amendment and it should be thrown out.
Last night the Democratic Labor Party proposed an amendment to the amendment. I do not agree with the sentiments expressed in that amendment and J hope that it is not carried. If it is, a terrific blow will fall on trade, commerce and the general welfare of the people, because the 1967-68 Budget will be thrown out. lt would be necessary to recast it and bring it back again to Parliament. In every speech in the Budget debates that I have made since 1953 I have expressed regret that it has been customary since Federation for the Budget to be delivered as late as October but at the earliest in the middle of August. I still think it is wrong. 1 believe it does a lot of harm to industry, trade and commerce in the worst part of the year. Everything is slowed up because people are waiting to learn the fiscal policy of the central Government. It is important to all aspects of life In trade and commerce. And what is important to them is important to the people who earn their income from working in trade and commerce.
I understand that in the United Kingdom the financial year ends on 28th March and the Budget is always brought down and the people are made aware of the fiscal policy of the Government in the first week in April. I. do not know whether the climate of Canberra or our accounting system or something else dictates the lime at which the Budget is brought down in Australia, but I do know that if we were to carry the proposed amendment of the Democratic Labor Party we would be creating a very great problem and causing harm lo the business life of the community. Therefore I very solemnly support the Budget.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, the discussion on this Budget has been rather interesting. I think that this Budget was formulated by the Government with one eye on the Senate election to be held later this year. At that election the Government will be hard pressed to maintain a majority in the Senate. Something had to be included in the Budget to obtain the support of the electors. The discussion following the introduction of the Budget - and this applies to both sides of the Senate - has taken place with an eye on the forthcoming election campaign. As in previous years, criticism has come from the Opposition regarding the deficiencies of this Budget. In the main, speakers on the Government side, willi few exceptions, have made no attempt to explain or uphold the provisions of the Budget. They have simply attempted to criticise the Australian Labor Party. Obviously it is the Australian Labor Party which is the threat to the Government in the forthcoming Senate election.
In 1961 Labor came within one seal of becoming the Government in this Parliament. Each election, be it State, Federal or by-election since that time has shown the decline of the Australian Labor Party which reached its lowest ebb in 1966. The first sign that the Labor Party was on the road back came with the resounding victory in the Corio by-election. This was such an overwhelming victory that it makes one wonder - and doubtless mades Government supporters wonder - how much of a landslide win is indicated for the Australian Labor Party in the forthcoming Senate election or the next House of Representatives election.
The election propaganda adopted by the Government seeks to take the minds of the people off Government policy by resort to the political assassination of the Opposition. The Government has sought to ridicule the Leaders of the Australian Labor Party. The Government was successful with such tactics, including the ridiculing of Arthur Calwell, up to the 1966 election. We have to face this fact, whether we like it or not. The preliminaries to the election fight will take place during this discussion.- Members of the Labor Party, in fighting the forthcoming election, will have to face several accusations. They are that Labor is a Socialist Party; that it will bring Socialism into operation if it gets the chance; and that it believes in the withdrawal of our troops from Vietnam and everything else that the Government thinks is horrible.
If we have any apologists in our Party who are afraid of these questions, they will have no opportunity to run away from them. Obviously the Government will put these arguments up to the electors. I have never been one who has apologised for the policy of the Labor Party; nor have I ever sought to run away from the policies of my Party. I think we have accepted the fact that we are prepared to fight the forthcoming election on the democratic Socialist policy of the Australian Labor Party and its attitude on foreign affairs at the present time. These were the issues that were brought forward at the Corio by-election. The result of that by-election was quite promising for the Party that I represent.
I turn now to a consideration of the Budget. During the forthcoming Senate election campaign, the Australian Labor Party will speak a great deal on the inadequacies of the present Budget. In the Budget the policy of the Government for the present and the future is reflected in its proposed financial measures for this financial year. I am one who has given high praise to the Department of the Treasury particularly for its ability to assess economic trends and, by financial measures, to determine the trend for the ensuing year and how the development of Australia should proceed. The Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) in his Budget Speech stated:
For these reasons, last year’s Budget was designed to be expansionary.
The economy responded much as we intended.
That statement illustrates the ability of the Department of the Treasury to frame a budget in order to create the results which the Government through its policy wishes to achieve during the next 12 months.
In the opinion of the Treasurer and of the Government the financial year 1966-67 was not an unsuccessful year. The Treasurer pointed out in this Speech:
For 1966-67 as awhole, gross national product rose by 9%. after making full allowance for price increases, there was an increase of between 5 and 6% in national production in real terms.
The Treasurer went on to say:
The number in employment in 1966-67 was 2.5% greater than in the year before.
The Treasurer said further:
As to prices, the consumer price index rose in the first three-quarters of 1966-67 at an annual rate only a little above 2%. However, in the most recent quarter, the rise approached an annual rote of 5%.
All in all, in the estimation of the Government the financial year 1966-67 was quite a successful year. The economy was buoyant if a little expansionary. The Go vernment says in this Budget that it will repeat those circumstances this year. Consumer spending will not be increased in 1967-68. The Government says that it will restrict the public sector of spending and promote an increase in the private sector of spending. That is the attitude of the Government in the presentation of this Budget. It is a stayput Budget for those who are enjoying the benefits in the economy at this period of time. I suppose it is a good Budget in the sense that it is designed to repeat this financial year what the Government achieved last financial year. I say again that to my mind the officers of the Department of the Treasury have done a good job. I have no doubt that they will succeed in what they have set out to achieve. So the Budget truly reflects the policy of the Government on this question.
The weakness of such a policy is that it makes no provision for the future development of Australia. Unless it can be seen that a substantial profit is to be made out of any project, that project simply will not be undertaken. It is the responsibility of the Government to open up new areas in Australia. These areas will represent unproductive development or development that will not reproduce for quite a few years. This development cannot take place under a Budget which seeks to ride along as did the Budget last year and reduce public spending. This Budget does not meet the requirements of the States which have been hamstrung for some years through the poor financial returns that they have received from the Commonwealth. Large, serious crises existed in practically all States last year because of the lack of finance to enable them to carry on their normal work and administration. In this Budget there is no salvation for the States.
The most serious point about the Budget is that no provision is made for persons on fixed incomes, whatever the fixed incomes may be. Figures supplied by the Treasury show that prices rose during the last financial year by approximately 2%. Obviously, the persons on fixed income must be some 2% worse off at the end of last financial year than they were at the beginning of it. The increase in prices in the last quarter of 1966-67 was approximately 5%. This means that people on fixed incomes were 5% worse off at the end of that quarter than they were at the beginning of that quarter.
If we relate those figures to the position of the pensioner - and I think the position of the pensioner has been emphasised in this Budget debate - we can see that justice is not done in this Budget to recipients of the small income represented by the pension because they were not given an increase at least comparable with the increase that has taken place in prices during the financial year 1966-67. This has resulted in protests by the pensioners’ association and the suggestion that pensioners should hold a weekly vigil outside the offices of Federal members, should go into mourning for 12 months and should wear armbands with the words Give us this day our daily bread’. The Government should take some cognizance of the position of pensioners at the present time.
The most worrying feature of this debate is the expression of the thinking of the Government forces (hat we heard from Senator Cormack last night. He referred to the need of the United Kingdom Government, which wanted lo bring about reforms, to reduce social services. He also referred to difficulties in New Zealand in relation to increased social service benefits. The Government adopts the attitude that the economy of the country must be sustained even at the sacrifice of those who are unfortunate enough to have to apply for social service benefits. The Government visualises a danger to the economy if an attempt is made to increase social service benefits for the less fortunate in our community. This was emphasised today by Senator Marriott who said that increases in social service benefits would necessitate increases in taxes. He said there was a danger of taking from a man who is today paying in taxation $1.25 out of every $2 of income the incentive for investment in the development of Australia.
The latest report of the Commissioner of Taxation shows that there are in Australia sections of taxpayers who have incomes of some $140,000 a year. Despite this, Government supporters say that if the provision of increased social service benefits necessitates increased taxation, these increased benefits cannot be supplied because this would destroy incentive. In
Senator Cormack’s words, it cannot be done because it could destroy advancement or development of the country. Surely there is a need for new thinking. The United Kingdom Labor Government is condemned by supporters of this Government because, realising the difficulty of providing from taxation revenue social service benefits in accordance with Labor’s policy, it has seen fit to supplement its source of income by such measures as taking over the profitable steel industry.
This Government cannot close its eyes to the pockets of poverty in Australia :it present. If it lacks the courage to tax those who can afford to pay in order to provide social service benefits, it must consider some increase in company taxation or even operation by the Commonwealth of some industries that arc returning handsome profits at the present time. It must realise from its experience of the operation of such undertakings as Trans-Australia Airlines that income can be provided in this way to enable the Commonwealth to give justice to people who rightly deserve it. The Government must abandon its theory and cease to give assistance to wealthy companies.
Senator Marriott eulogises the drsire to make people save for their retirement by investment in insurance. This is not so much an encouragement to provide for retirement. Insurance is the best form of investment today for any high income earner. Because of my responsibilities, 1 would probably be one of those in this Senate who pay the lowest income tax. I would not be in the highest bracket. Last year I was allowed a deduction of $800 for superannuation contributions. Under the current Budget proposals the investment of an additional $400 in insurance would reduce my taxable income by $400 and would reduce my tax by $153. So of every additional $400 that I invest in life assurance each year the Commonwealth will, in effect, be paving $153.
I could not get such a return from any other investment. No other Investment would provide the return that the Commonwealth so generously makes available to those in the high income bracket. One can magnify this and see what the benefit will be to the man to whom Senator Marriott referred and who pays $1.25 from every $2 of income. He can reduce his taxable income by $1,200. How much will the Commonwealth contribute towards this investment in his case? It is natural, if one has the money, to invest in insurance because this is the best type of investment. While it does make money available for investment in Government activities, it deprives the Commonwealth of the revenue that it would get from income taxation, lt is a method of subsidising insurance by the use of Commonwealth finance.
The Government says that it cannot afford any increases in social service benefits. I do not want, to belabour this question; I think it has been canvassed sufficiently. While the Government is not prepared to increase pensions, possibly those pensioners who have some other income and are not actually destitute will get through. Those who have children who can assist them to moot their living expenses are possibly all right. Those couples of whom the husband is in a position to do some work to supplement his pension may get through. But there are throughout Australia pockets of acute poverty to which we cannot shut our eyes. Some of us may not go through working class areas, but these conditions of poverty exist.” They have been found as a result of investigations that have been made. They have been found by organisations that assist in needy cases. Surely the Commonwealth is not so heartless as to give such a handout of Commonwealth income as I have mentioned to insurance companies and to purchase VIP aircraft while refusing increases in social service benefits. If it will not provide a justifiable increase in pensions it should give assistance by means of subsidies to the various State welfare departments or to organisations such as Meals on Wheels, which provide a hot meal a day for needy people, lt should provide some subsidy to meet cases of acute poverty until pensioners really get justice in i budget.
The Government has been eulogised for increasing child endowment to assist the family man with a number of children, probably living in a state of poverty. It is hard to imagine any man with four or more children and who Ls working under an award of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission who would not be living in a state of poverty. Recog nising that fact, the Government has increased child endowment to relieve the acute poverty which is found today in most large families.
I appeal to the Government to extend its consideration at least to the pensioner section of the community. I think it was Senator Gair who said he recognised that children have some responsibility to their parents for all their parents have done for them. That is a peculiarity of the human race. Nothing in the animal or bird kingdoms lives off its children. Although 1 suppose any child would assist his parents if he were able to do so, we must recognise that as children grow older they assume their own commitments and their capacity to help must be borne in mind. We must remember also that when a boy marries he will be confronted with increased problems and difficulties if he has to assist not only his own parents but also his wife’s parents. fi: there are sections in our community - everyone knows that there are - which can look to no other source than their children for assistance to maintain even their health, let alone any degree of comfort, they should be given Commonwealth assistance along the lines of the present proposal in relation to child endowment.
Recently there was a referendum by which the Commonwealth Government sought to obtain power to legislate for people of the Aboriginal race. One would have thought that when the Commonwealth sought this power it would have had its proposals to help our unfortunate Aboriginals already prepared for the event of the referendum being successful. The referendum was overwhelmingly successful. Now, after 4 months, we find mention in the Budget Speech that discussions will be held between the Commonwealth and the States on the future of the Aboriginals. If one considers the conditions of poverty in which congregations of Aboriginals live, as well as their lack of education and of opportunities, one must recognise the need for immediate action to assist them. If the Commonwealth had any desire to improve the lot of our Aboriginals it would, at least for a start, introduce legislation, as South Australia has done, making it an offence to discriminate against one section of the community because of its colour.
Prior to the referendum, section 51 (xxvi) of the Constitution was in these terms:
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to: -
The referendum sought to omit the words other than the Aboriginal race in any State’ from that section of the Constitution. The referendum having been carried overwhelmingly, the relevant section of the Constitution will now read:
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to: -
I leave one thought for the legal minds of the Senate: If the Commonwealth has power, then 1 believe that the States legally have no power because there cannot be duplication of power. If the Aboriginals are people in respect of whom the Commonwealth is deemed to have power to make special laws, then the Commonwealth has exclusive power to make laws governing them. Having regard to the number of Bills which were passed by the various State Parliaments when the States had power in relation to Aboriginals, I think it can well be claimed that the Aboriginals belong to a race of people for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws today.
If my interpretation is correct, the fact that the referendum was successful means that all laws which existed previously governing Aboriginals have been nullified, and it could well be that the Aboriginals are now a section of our community without laws. That indicates the need for hastening consideration of this matter. If the present position proves anything, it proves the necessity for Commonwealth laws in relation to Aboriginals to be much more thorough and to cover much wider fields than would otherwise be the case.
The main issue in the Budget to which we should be devoting our attention is that of defence expenditure. Australia is a rich country. According to the Budget we are further impoverishing ourselves by borrowing $596m overseas. This is $61 m more than we borrowed overseas last year. The main reason for the increase of 27% in our expenditure is our defence commitment. As Senator McClelland has pointed out, $3 50m of the proposed expenditure is external expenditure on defence. Whether this includes our commitment in Vietnam, I do not know. I do not think anyone knows what the Vietnam war is costing us. It would be a good exercise to endeavour to learn the monetary cost to Australia of sending troops to Vietnam to engage in this war.
The Australian Wool Board in its annual report this year mentioned its achievement in maintaining prices despite the continuation of the war in Vietnam. We know that as a result of the war wool prices have dropped considerably. Although the Board did not say this, I believe that the fall in wool prices is the direct result of the war in Vietnam because, as war clouds loom, countries have to conserve their funds for expenditure on items of defence. Senator Marriott spoke of the Senate select committee which is investigating the container method of handling cargoes. That committee, when hearing public evidence in Tasmania recently, was told that Tasmanians were having extreme difficulty in exporting their apple crop because they could not get a sufficient number of refrigerated ships during the vital period of 5 or 6 weeks each year. The shipping position for the Tasmanian apple crop is becoming well nigh impossible at the present time because five or six ships which usually engage in this trade have been taken over by the American Army in order to transport foodstuffs to Vietnam. It could well be that in the coming year the Tasmanian apple crop will be in jeopardy unless we can find ships to replace those under charter because of the Vietnam war, or unless those ships are released. The matters I have referred to indicate only some of the indirect costs that Australia is facing because of the Vietnam war. And what is it all for?
The policy of the Australian Labor Party in regard to the Vietnam war has been interpreted and misinterpreted in this Parliament. No apology is offered because
Labor’s policy is in opposition to the Government’s activities and is against Australian involvement in what has been classed by Labor Party leaders as a dirty war. If we study the platform of the Labor Party, which was adopted at the Adelaide conference, we find that the resolution on Vietnam is as follows:
The Labor Party is opposed to the continuance of the war in Vietnam, and to Australian participation in it. The Party will work to end the war and to end Australian participation in it.
How do we end Australia’s participation in the war? This can be done overnight by withdrawing our troops. This is the policy which has been condemned so much. In its policy the Labor Party adds this proviso:
Satisfied that the war in Vietnam does not involve any obligations for Australia under ANZUS, SEATO or the U.N. Charter, and does not assist the Vietnamese people to determine their own affairs, and that no threat to Australian security from China is involved, the A.L.P. seeks primarily to bring the war to a conclusion. To do so, the A.L.P., on achieving office, will submit to our allies that they should immediately -
cease bombing North Vietnam.
recognise the National Liberation Front as a principal party to negotiations.
transform operations in South Vietnam into holding operations thereby to avoid involvement of civilians in the war, cease the use of napalm and other objectionable materials of war and provide sanctuary for anyone seeking it
Should our allies fail to take this action, the Australian Government would then consider that it had no alternative other than to withdraw our armed forces.
If anyone wants a clear definition of Labor’s policy, that is it. Labor is opposed to Australia’s participation in the Vietnam war and will do everything possible to end this participation, whether it is in office or not. If we were in office, Australian forces would be left in Vietnam only if they could be used to bring about peace in that unhappy country. The first essential in Vietnam is peace. If we can contribute to creating a peace, then we are prepared to do so. This point is particularly important. Sons of members of our party, who were conscripted into the Army, have been killed in Vietnam. It is not pleasant paying respect to close associates and members of the party whose sons were conscripted to fight in a war in which they, and we, as a responsible party, believe Australia should not be involved.
I do not want to go into the origin of this Vietnam conflict. I think its origin has been lost in history. It could well be that the cause we are fighting for today is not the original cause for which we entered this conflict. We must consider the reason that we are in Vietnam at the present time. Nothing is surer than that we are in Vietnam purely for the preservation of the prestige of the United States of America. This is apparent wherever one looks and despite the Government’s White papers, the reports of successes, and the studies made of the present position in Vietnam. (Honourable senators interjecting) -
- Mr Acting Deputy President, will I stop speaking while this private debate is proceeding? I do not think the honourable senators concerned could contribute the facts about Vietnam that I have before me.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! I ask Senator Cavanagh to continue.
– Despite the White Papers put out by the Government and the reports of the successes of the allies in this conflict, all the figures available show that we are losing this war. It is a depressing thought. If we face the facts, we must come to the conclusion that this engagement is purely for the purpose of preserving America’s prestige as having the most powerful army in the world. If we are defeated in this conflict, then military might simply becomes a paper tiger in the future and no more can we rely on the power of military forces to save us from any conflicts that may occur in future. There are those who consider that success in this war may result in the countries of South East Asia being able to determine their future governments without the threat of military intervention. Possibly that is not a sad thought. There are those who see the abolition of military might and it being replaced with political reasonableness. Possibly that is not a depressing thought. That is what influences a section of our community to go to extremes today and to send aid to those forces which our own forces are endeavouring to defeat. Possibly those people are seeking the destruction of the power of the military machine. However,
I do not put that suggestion forward as justification for their actions.
Speaking in this Senate on 23rd March 1966, as reported at page 184 of Hansard, 1 pointed out that for the first time we were engaged in a conflict without the unanimous support of our citizens for this action. I said that on this occasion we could find some sympathy for the people against whom we were committing our troops. I differentiated between the situation which existed at the time of the Second World War. During the Second World War in the early stages, there was a section of our community which did oppose Australia’s participation. But they had no love or support for Hitler. At that time it was thought that we were not providing as much assistance as we should. Surely those who believed it was a civil war, that it was a war to stop the invasion of foreign forces, must have hoped for some success. We can understand the sympathies of those who think today that the question is one of the challenge of military might. 1 repeat that Labor could never support these actions while our own sons aic: being sent overseas to be threatened with bullets from the opposing forces. We say emphatically that they should not be taking part in this conflict in Vietnam.
A challenge was issued as to how well we are faring in this war. I point out that in the first 27 weeks of this year more Americans died than in the whole of 1966. This is not very good. Three Americans were killed and twenty were wounded each week in 1964. In 1965, 26 were killed and 118 were wounded each week. In 1966, the number killed each week was 96, and the number wounded was 579.
– What proportion of the forces did that represent?
– I do not know. I am merely stating the numbers killed and wounded. There were 16,0 Americans killed and 1,015 wounded each week during this current year. Possibly, with the escalation of the war the increase in the strength of the forces can be justified; but surely after years of operation we should be making the position there more secure. I remind honourable senators of what I said on 23rd March 1966 when speaking to the ministerial statement on the Government’s policy on Vietnam. On page 183 of Hansard of that date I am reported as having said:
The point I am trying to make is that if we relate the deaths of thirty-five Australian soldiers in Vietnam which were reported up until yesterday, and the two additional deaths which were reported in today’s Press, to the 1,500 Australian troops in Vietnam at the present time, we see that it is a death rate of 2.3%. If this percentage is maintained, of the 4,500 troops that we are sending to Vietnam, 100 will die in that area and will never return to Australia. A proportion of them will be conscripts whom we have taken from their normal ways of life and put in the forces. At the present time 156 Australian soldiers have been injured in Vietnam out of a total force of 1,500. That is an injury rate of 10.4%. If it is maintained, of the 4,500 troops that we are to send to Vietnam, 450 will come back maimed and injured.
That was no prognostication made by way of clairvoyance; it was a statement of the facts. In the ‘Mercury’ of 9th August 1967 it is stated that since the task force arrived in Vietnam in May of last year the number of Australians killed totalled ninety-one. It will be recalled that I said the number would be 100. Of those, forty-four were national servicemen. The total wounded over this period stands at 322. I said it would be 450. Included in those 322 were 129 national servicemen. So we are not doing too well in Vietnam.
In May, June and the first week of July of this year, the Americans lost 2,330 men and the South Vietnamese lost 1,999. When we have reached the stage where the American losses are greater than those of the South Vietnamese Government forces, can anyone argue that we and not the South Vietnamese Government forces are not taking the brunt of the fighting, that we are not doing most of the fighting against the North Vietnamese forces?
William Toohey, the Saigon correspondent of the ‘Mirror’, points out in an article published on 8th April that for the purposes of the constitutional election 1,000 villages were considered to be cleared from the Vietcong and that 1,500 villages in South Vietnam were still controlled by the Vietcong. So in fact we control far fewer villages than do the Vietcong, although admittedly we do control a bigger proportion of the population. I think the numbers under the control of the Vietcong would be comparatively small. In this calendar year alone 1,700 civilians, many of them revolutionary development personnel, have been murdered by the Vietcong. This has happened despite the fact that we claim to be progressing and that we have so much control over the area. Senator McManus said that the Vietcong are killing the school teachers and the leaders. I do not deny that this could be true, but how can we say that we have control when the Vietcong can kill 1,700 civilians in an area which we claim to have made secure? We read in this morning’s Press that 1,200 persons were released from towns under our control. We also know of the bombing that is taking place in Saigon. This is not a war in which success can be judged by the area of land we bring under our control; it is one in which success is judged by the number of deaths we cause. That is the type of war in which we are engaged.
In the statement which was read to the Senate on 17th August, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) said there arc now more than 50,000 North Vietnamese regular troops fighting in South Vietnam. When we put that figure against the 250,000 Americans and the 500,000 South Vietnamese troops, it cannot be argued that we have any area in Vietnam which can be called secure. Yesterday Senator Lawrie referred to the United Nations. Whether this question has been submitted to the United Nations I do not know, but I remind the Senate of this article which appeared in the ‘Australian’ today:
Security Council action to end the Vietnam war is unlikely at this stage because two of the permanent members, Russia and France, oppose Council discussion. . . . But U Thant made it clear it was up to the council to decide whether it wanted to discuss the question, which the United States put on the council agenda in January 1966. There has been no United Nations substantive debate on the issue.
The point I am making is that although it was put on the agenda it has never been brought forward for discussion. The reason given in the United States for its not having been brought forward was that discussion would only be vetoed by one or other of the big powers. Senator Mansfield argued that it was the responsibility of the Government to bring it forward for discussion in order to point out to the world those countries which were opposed to taking any action aimed at evolving ways of ending the war in Vietnam.
I had hoped to deal with the ministerial statement on foreign affairs in some detail, but time will not permit me to do so. I wish to make an appeal to the Government. If the Government is so committed to those who have other forces there that it can do very little about withdrawing Australian troops from Vietnam, or if it is not prepared to do so, should it not at least ensure that the activities of the allied forces in Vietnam are humane? Let us consider the civilian casualties that are occurring. A letter which I think all members of the Parliament received from the Quakers in relation to certain proposed legislation stated:
In February 1966 Representative Clement Zablocki of the United States House Foreign Affairs Committee reported that certain search and destroy operations had resulted in six civilian casualties for every Vietcong; estimates by those in the field vary from two to ten civilian casualties for every Vietcong.
Although Australians are engaged in this war, surely we should be raising our voices in protest against such unforgivable casualties among the civilian population. That statement referred to search and destroy operations, not to North Vietnam.
Let us consider the napalm question. The interesting point is that in the early stages of the war American publications seemed to eulgoise some of the brutalities that were committed on the Vietcong. Today the attitude is different. The American publications try to suggest that the effects of napalm burning are greatly exaggerated. But surely it is a weapon of war and if it Ls happening to only a single person it should not be happening. We as a civilised nation should try to stop this horror. It is said that napalm will melt the skin off the face of a child. In one case a child’s face was melted down on to its chest. Let us see what ‘Backgrounder’, an official publication of the United States Information Service, states to show that the effects of napalm are not as serious as they are alleged to be. It states:
Dr Howard A. Rusk, a world renowned authority on physical rehabilitation . . . wrote: There have been cases of severe burns from napalm but the numbers are not large in comparison to burns due to accidents.’ He noted further:
Because of inflation the cost of fuel for cooking is very high. As a result, many Vietnamese farmers and villagers pilfer or buy stolen gasoline. They are inexperienced in its use and try to use it like kerosene. The results are tragic’
So it is said that the amount of burning thoughout Vietnam is inflated as a result of dealings in and the use of gasoline. The Americans admit that 15% of the civilian casualties are the result of napalm bombing. Surely we as a civilised country should be raising our voice in protest against the use of napalm. The official publication also states:
Official surveys and independent fact-finding missions by private authorities have searchingly looked at the problem on the spot and concluded that the war has been causing about 35,000 hospitalised civilian casualties a year or a national average of about 15% of the total hospital admissions among the civilian population. . . . The report indicates approximately 1,400 hospitalised casualties per month in 1964, 1,570 in 1965 and 2,520 in 1966. The figure is up in 1967, with perhaps 4,000 civilian casualties attributable to the war estimated per month by US officials in Saigon in May.
That is an extract not from some dubious publication but from an official publication of the United States Government. It shows the increase in the number of civilian casualties. As this is a war in which we count our victories by the number of deaths, we can see how we gain the impression that we are succeeding, despite the fact that the losses to the allies are increasing as time goes by.
The position today is that no-one is safe in Vietnam. We cannot defeat the 50,000 infiltrators from the North. We cannot defeat the unarmed, uneducated peasants of Vietnam. As I said earlier, we have reached a stage in the emergence of postwar, post-imperialist Asia in which military might is no substitute for political understanding and reasonableness. It is time we got out of Vietnam. It is time we carried on a campaign to establish that the most that we can contribute to Vietnam today is the achievement of peace. While we are hoping to achieve peace in that unfortunate, war torn country, let us act as adult Christians and adult citizens and raise our voices in protest against the atrocities and cruelties that are occurring in that country.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, you will recall that I was speaking in this debate when it was interrupted last Wednesday night. As I was absent when the debate was resumed, I ask for leave to continue my remarks now.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I thank the Senate for its indulgence. Last Wednesday I dealt with the ability of the Australian people to pay their way in relation to the national expenditure. >I stressed that it was necessary to have a successful work force profitably occupied in order to produce the goods and services that we require for the less fortunate people in our community. I have heard a great deal about pouring money into circulation so that people can receive more social service benefits, as Senator Cavanagh suggested. Members of the Opposition suggest that age pensions should be increased. I remind them that their very great former leader, the late Mr Chifley, said that social service benefits cannot be paid for in that way; that they can be paid for only by the products that the work force produces. By tipping an unlimited amount of paper money into the community we only hurt the pensioners by immediately causing inflation. That was what Mr Chifley was very keen to avoid. The very people whom we wish to help are harmed.
I proceeded to deal with defence, and this afternoon I have been provoked by Senator Cavanagh to speak on a topic on which I did not think I would speak in this debate. I will deal with some of his statements in the very near future. As Senator Cavanagh said, this year Australia will spend $1,1 18m on defence. Our defence expenditure is increasing. There are other very serious aspects of the country’s finances. The Budget provides for the expenditure of over $6,000m. Our receipts will not be nearly as great. As a matter of fact, Australia will be down on the deficit side. We will be spending $6,483m but our income will be only $5,887m. We will have a gap of $596m. We are not paying our way. The deficit can be met only by borrowing; yet certain people urge us to spend more. I look at the country’s finance in the same way as I look at my own private business. I have to live within my own income. One cannot borrow oneself into prosperity. I ask honourable senators, when discussing this Budget and when asking for this and for that, to have some real appreciation of living within our income.
I was speaking about defence and how the idea of defence of honourable senators on this side differs from that of honourable senators opposite. I. want to deal with one or two things that Senator Cavanagh said about Vietnam. I wish people would go to Vietnam and see the country. I wish people would try to ascertain the factual position. 1 was delighted to hear Senator Cavanagh say that 50,000 North Vietnamese regular troops had infiltrated into South Vietnam. He did not say one word about what the North Vietnamese and his particular friends, the National Liberation Front, which is a Communist body controlled and organised from the North, were doing to the South Vietnamese people. I will take the liberty of reciting a short history of this struggle as I see it. 1 do not see too many Opposition senators in the chamber; they are not particularly interested in the debate. I invite honourable senators to come with me in thought for a moment or so and have a look at South Vietnam; we cannot look at North Vietnam. The South Vietnamese people desire to live a peaceful and prosperous life. They work in the fields. In the evening they retire to their homes in the villages. The majority of these villages are surrounded by barbed wire, palisades or pointed stakes. Every night guards are posted at these villages for protection against the Vietcong and the National Liberation Front - no-one else. The guards are not posted for protection against the Americans or the Australians. Every night the South Vietnamese post guards to ensure that they are not raided and that their women and head men are not carried off.
Senator McManus has given figures showing the number of official people, including school teachers, who have been killed or carried off. Why is it that between a quarter of a million and 300,000 children in South Vietnam are unable to obtain any education? It is not because the South Vietnamese have killed their teachers and not because the allies have not attempted to establish schools and so on. The simple reason is that the North Vietnamese and the National Liberation Front have killed hundreds and hundreds of school teachers. That situation is quite in order as far as honourable senators opposite are concerned. Whatever the North Vietnamese do is correct in the eyes of honourable senators opposite. 1 said that I would give a short recital of the happenings in Vietnam, as I have seen it and as 1 know it. I agree with Senator Cavanagh on some points. Just how we are going to stop this invasion from the North, how we are going to protect our own troops, and how we are going to protect the lives of our own troops, 1 do not know. No pattern has been established. Senator Cavanagh talks about war and so on. I do not know much about it. 1 do not know of any pattern that could be adopted to stop the war. What I like about what the Australians and the Americans is that they are trying to do the very things that Senator Cavanagh would wish them to do - to make areas secure so that people living within those areas may have the right to choose whom they would wish to govern them. That right is denied those people by the very friends that Senator Cavanagh loves so much - the National Liberation Front and the 50,000 North Vietnamese whom he is delighted to see causing terror and inflicting casualties, death and horror on the people of South Vietnam.
That situation is good enough for him, but it is not good enough for me. He spoke today about the injuries inflicted on the civil population. Those injuries are not inflicted by the Americans. The honourable senator does not say anything about the injuries the North Vietnamese inflict on the South Vietnamese. He has never lived in a village at night and has never expected to be raided by an enemy at any hour; he has never wondered whether his wife or children would be carried off as hostages, not by the South Vietnamese but by the North Vietnamese and the National Liberation Front, whom he says we should treat better. I am going to weary the Senate on this, but perhaps we can get the difference between Senator Cavanagh’s point of view on this and mine. The whole question revolves around defence as represented by our involvement in South Vietnam.
How did this involvement come about? We have to go back a few years. It is interesting to know where the involvement starts. Our involvement springs from and could be influenced by what the French were doing by their colonial control of this and the adjoining areas. Everybody knows that all these areas were part of the old French colonial empire, the capital of which was Phnom Penh in Cambodia. The fall of France in 1940 had a great influence on what happened in what was then IndoChina. Ever since 1954 the question of Vietnam has been linked with the much wider question of national independence and the self-determination of all the other nations in that area and, going a little further, Asia generally. The story of this area is one of aspirations and decisions. Perhaps we should go back to 1945. President Roosevelt believed that French control of Indo-China should cease. It is very true that in 1945 the United States of America assisted Ho Chi Minh against the Japanese. But 1946 was the crucial year in which the French signed the Fontainebleau Agreement. They signed it and broke it and from that time troubles began. The vital question is whether at that time Great Britain and the United States could have influenced France to make a different decision and put the Vietnamese on the highway to independence. It was then a difficult situation to gauge. It was a matter of guesswork. After a lapse of 21 years we can see things a little more clearly but at that time the United States and Great Britain had to decide whether France should be allowed to continue to hold Indo-China.
When France fell to the Germans in 1940 it was a tragic blow to the peace of the world. It had a vital effect on IndoChina and Asia generally. When World War II was over France particularly wanted to restore her national position and wanted again to be known as a great power. It seemed to France that in the eyes of the world the possession of colonies would make her a great power and therefore she did not set Vietnam on the way to independence in 1946. Looking back now we can see the tragedy of that decision. That is where trouble started. France wanted to regain her status as a world power, and Great Britain and the United States - and we in Australia - believed that if France were to stay in Indo-China she could help to prevent the downward thrust of Communism and Communist control of Indo-China. It was a supposition. No-one knew whether that would work. In the result France was defeated in Indo-China in 1954-
– France signed an agreement which was never honoured.
– ‘Exactly. I am glad that the honourable senator said that because I am coming to that matter. I can see that I will be well assisted and I thank the honourable senator for his assistance. I am sure that we can agree on a lot of things. Soviet Russia and Communist China urged Hanoi to settle for a temporary division at the seventeenth parallel and to guarantee the independence of Cambodia and Laos. Do we agree on that point7
– Let us have a point of agreement. We agree that that was in 1954.
– And an election was to be held within 2 years.
– The Geneva Accords, as Senator Cavanagh would call them and I agree with him, were the product of Hanoi, Communist China, the Soviet Union on the one hand, and France on the other hand. In 1954 the new entity of South Vietnam appeared with Diem as Prime Minister. There was not a thought in the world that South Vietnam would ever exist. South Vietnam was like a ripe plum to be dropped into the lap of the North Vietnamese at any tick of the clock, as it were. Much to everyone’s surprise Diem, who was supposed to be a figurehead, became a rather influential man. The idea of appointing Diem as Prime Minister of South Vietnam was a face saver for France. France wanted to exit as gracefully as she could from the terrible predicament she was in. Diem was to be a figurehead. I repeat that the parties to the Geneva Accords were France on the one hand, and the Soviet Union, Communist China and Hanoi on the other hand. After that came the South East Asia Treaty Organisation pact. Strangely enough, that was ratified by the American Senate by 82 votes to 1. The formation of SEATO created obligations. Along with the Americans, we had obligations to South Vietnam. The chief aim of SEATO was to safeguard the security not only of South Vietnam but also of the South East Asian signatories.
– Is the honourable senator saying that we are in South Vietnam because of an obligation under SEATO?
– 1 said that the treaty created obligations to South Vietnam, but the chief aim was to safeguard the security of the South East Asian signatories. The honourable senator disagrees. I will deal with that in a few moments. In 1954 President Eisenhower gave economic support to Diem and in 1955 the United States gave military assistance by sending advisers to South Vietnam, acting in strict accordance with the Geneva Accords.
– They did not. They sent helicopters and built airfields.
– In 1954 President Eisenhower gave economic support to Diem and in 1955 the United States gave military assistance by sending advisers to South Vietnam, acting in strict accordance with the Geneva Accords.
– The United States was found by an international commission to be acting at variance with the Accords.
– South Vietnam was a new nation. If South Vietnam were swamped by the North, the people in the South would be dominated and would suffer virtual servitude. Does the honourable senator agree?
– South Vietnam was a new nation and if it were swamped hy the North the people in the South would be dominated and would suffer virtual servitude under the control of the North Vietnamese - the Communist regime in North Vietnam. In 1956 we heard a great deal about free elections under the Geneva Accords. No-one has ever told me when there was a free election in North Vietnam. At present when the South Vietnamese are endeavouring to proceed in the direction of what we call democracy, the very forces that the honourable senator would claim are the national heroes - the Vietcong– are busily disrupting every move of the South Vietnamese to express their opinions freely. Does the honourable senator go along with that?
– No, I do not go along with that.
– The honourable senator says that the .South Vietnamese regime is the worst he has ever seen. He says that it is corrupt, and it is this, that and something else. All the allegations are unsubstantiated. But the moment there is a movement by the South Vietnamese people to see the light of day, the honourable senator says that they should not act in that way. The honourable senator says that it is only right and fair that these elections should be disrupted, and that every obstacle should be placed in the way of these people so that they cannot have free expression of opinion.
– When did I criticise the elections?
– I would have thought that Senator Cavanagh would stand up in his place and cheer to think that these people are endeavouring to obtain some sense of democracy. But the honourable senator has said: ‘Let us go to the United Nations and to the Security Council, where the South Vietnamese are so bitterly criticised.’ The South Vietnamese have been asked to hold elections. They are holding elections. The great majority of the people who are sitting in judgment on the South Vietnamese could not hold even a semblence of the elections that the South Vietnamese are attempting to carry out at this time. That is the answer to the question whether the regime is corrupt.
I did not meet Air Vice-Marshal Ky when he came to Australia earlier this year. 1 saw him on television. As an ordinary man, I thought: ‘Well, he believes in the right of his fellow South Vietnamese.’ Every question possible was asked of him. He answered the questions honourably and in a straightforward manner. He did not hedge. I thought that he was quite an extraordinary man. I believe that he and the military regime for which Senator Cavanagh shows so little regard will do their best to see that thi elections are conducted fairly and squarely. Senator Cavanagh asked why free elections were not held earlier. I heard him ask this question. I will be very personal with Senator Cavanagh. I have heard him eulogise the late John F. Kennedy. The Senate has heard him do this. What did John F. Kennedy do in 1956? He rejected the idea of elections stacked and subverted by those who had already broken their pledge.
– And the honourable senator knows better than he?
– Senator Cavanagh should go to the International Control Commission and hear what it has to say. I have spoken to members of the Control Commission. I have spoken to the Canadians and the Indians. I realise that the people of North Vietnam are not angels. I am not saying that the people of South Vietnam are paragons of virtue But I do say that North Vietnam has broken almost every peace treaty that it has had. The late John F. Kennedy said that it was impossible to hold the elections. Does Senator Cavanagh believe in John F. Kennedy? I have heard the honourable senator eulogise him. I take some notice of the words of John F. Kennedy.
Let us go another step further. In 1961 the Kennedy Administration increased by a few hundred the trained American military personnel in South Vietnam. Why did it do this? It did this because, in 1961, guerilla aggression from North Vietnam assumed serious proportions. That was the reason for the increase. Aggression came from the north. Nothing had happened in the south. The people of the south had not gone north. But aggression was coming down from the north. It was not until 1956 that South Vietnam ever had the chance to stand on its own feet.
Senator Cavanagh asks us why we entered this conflict. The aim of our entry - and it still remains - is to protect the independence of South Vietnam. We have no other aim. We have broadcast it to the world. It was no pleasure for us to call up men to serve in the Army. It was no pleasure to call up national servicemen. I hate that word ‘conscript’. I think that if Senator Cavanagh had seen these laddies in training and the way in which they fitted into the permanent Army he would have felt a certain amount of pride.
– I would have been proud of them but they are still conscripts.
– These laddies are training in various divisions in the Army. I do not wish to go back to the situation in 1951 when the Australian Labor Party declared at its Hobart conference that no national servicemen would be sent outside
Australia. The ALP repeated that declaration in 1956 and again in 1967. It said: Let the volunteers go’. But what did the Australian Labor Party say about volunteers in 1917, when the introduction of conscription was attempted? It said: ‘Let the fools who volunteered rot in France’. That is what Senator Cavanagh’s Party said. When the war was over in 1918, we could not get a ship home. The Labor Party said: Let those stupid animals who volunteered swim back to Australia’. That was what’ Senator Cavanagh’s Party said. That is what he would say today. If he does not say it, he thinks it.
We have entered the conflict because we want South Vietnam to have its independence. We speak about our national servicemen. What better name could we have for these boys? I was always in favour of conscription. I voted for it on a couple of occasions. It is the only fair and just way to run an Army. Sena ‘or Cavanagh believes in compulsory union membership.
– No, I do not.
– Senator Cavanagh believes that jobs are worth protecting. He does not call what he believes in ‘compulsory union membership’. 1 do not know the exact words he uses, but he believes in it.
– No, I do not.
– I think that it is right too. But I believe that we need national service - the honourable senator may call it conscription if he wishes - to carry out the great job that we have to do in defending and working for Australia. National service is the only just way of running the Army. Does Senator Cavanagh know about the Army? Does he know what happened in 1941 and 1942 when the Australian forces were split by the two army idea of the Labor Party? There were the militia boys and there were the volunteers. I never want to see what happened then happen again. I took some of our militia boys to New Guinea. They were a marvellous crowd. I did not notice any difference between them and the volunteers. Many of them were in the militia because they were refused admission into the Australian Imperial Force. But there was this question of splitting the forces.
National service, with the integration of national servicemen into Army companies, is the only fair and just way that an army can be run and that defence can be run, in my opinion. I like to hear these lads say: Well, Australia is not bad. If I have to join the Army - the decision is made for me - I will accept my callup readily’. All this nonsense that Senator Cavanagh carries on with - the sneer that he puts into his voice when he refers to these people as ‘conscripts’ and as ‘being conscripted’ - leaves me with a great feeling of resentment. I am delighted to hear the words ‘national service’. I ask Senator Cavanagh: ‘Please, for the sake of decency, do not use the word ‘conscript’ when referring to these men. It is not a true description. They are national servicemen’.
I come back to the question of our national servicemen and our troops who are serving in Vietnam. I said earlier that the purpose of our entry into this conflict was to protect the South Vietnamese. Perhaps when we entered this conflict none of us could foresee what was going to happen. But I believe that we were right in the action we took.
I turn now to the question of peace. I have heard the Opposition say that we are not interested in peace. Let me tell the Opposition that we are prepared to negotiate anywhere, at any time, in any place, to secure peace. But Hanoi has rejected every overture for peace and every attempt that has ever been made to restore peace since April 1965. How can one achieve peace if the other fellow will not listen? Our aim is to restore stability and to bring prosperity to the whole countryside in South Vietnam. Having achieved this, we would go further. If peace could be achieved I believe that the Australian public would give aid willingly to North Vietnam as well as South Vietnam in order to put the people in a good economic position.
Our whole aim has been to encourage South Vietnam to move towards a constitutional form of government. I never hear that aim applauded from the Opposition side.
This movement towards constitutional government was accelerated greatly in January 1966. Proceeding from that point, there is to be very soon in South Vietnam an election of an assembly to govern the country. What does the Opposition say? Senator Cavanagh said it here this afternoon. He said that we should not support South Vietnam, that we should withdraw. Fair enough. That is his view, not mine. Now let us go into this question. Can he prove that if we withdrew tomorrow peace would come to this area? Can he prove that the South Vietnamese would have a democratic form of government if we withdrew tomorrow? Every political party has to make its own judgment on this question. I have made mine. I have made it because I believe that the security and safety of South Vietnam vitally affect Australia. I agree that no one can say that Communist China would move south if the opportunity offered. I cannot say that it would. No one can say that it would dominate South East Asia by pressure and subversion.
– But they do say it.
– No one here can say that, but it is what the Chinese and their maps say. That is where it comes from. Their very doctrines emphasise that. I am glad of the interjection. Who is saying that the Chinese would do this? The Chinese maps and the Chinese people say it.
– Half of your Party does.
– And the Chinese maps say it. Can we believe it? I am not asking anyone to take my word. Let us be realistic about it. There is no misapprehension as far as they are concerned about what they say. I am not saying that the Communist Chinese would move south if opportunity offered. They are the only people who can say that. I am happy to say - I disagree with Senator Cavanagh in this respect - that over South East Asia there is now a growing sense of confidence that those countries will be able to live as national entities. If we have done nothing else, we have bought time in this argument between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. The time that we have bought we have used well. I am glad that Senator Cavanagh mentioned various facts. They show that a difficult task lies ahead of us in South Vietnam. Honourable senators will have noticed that he specifically referred to the position in South Vietnam. These things have occurred in South Vietnam and not in
North Vietnam. This gives the lie direct to the charge that we are the aggressors.
The position reminds me a little of the situation in 1938-39. I repeat that the time we have bought we have used well. Let us proceed on our present course, searching always for an avenue of peace. As I said earlier, the prospects for peace and the prosperity of South East Asia now look brighter than they have ever looked since the nations in this area were established on an independent basis. Much of that confidence is due to our efforts - not only our military effort. So much reference is made to the fact that our laddies there are fighting, as though that is the only thing that they have to do. They are there to protect the villages and to bring some sense of law and order to an area were people are distracted, molested, murdered, or taken away as hostages. Can Australians stand idly by and see these things happen? I say that they cannot and that they will not.
I only hope that some avenue will be found whereby we can tell the North Vietnamese that actually we have nothing personally against them and their doctrines, that they can live their lives above the 17th parallel and that we will help them. They have all of the manufacturing industries above the 17th parallel. They were the affluent people. South Vietnam certainly grew a little rice but it was never thought that the South would prosper.
We are prepared to help both of these countries. At the same time we have a solemn obligation, in my opinion. Much as I hate our having to do these things, Australia cannot stand idly by and see a nation overrun. There are lots of other comments that I would like to make about this matter. I would like to go a little more deeply into the Vietnam situation as I see it but there are many other aspects of the Budget that I wish to discuss. I have spent far too long, perhaps, on this subject but it is a matter of such vital importance to the people of Australia that I thought, not only for my sake but also for the sake of the people who will follow, that we should have a clear picture of what is happening in the area.
To say that we are there only to bolster the prestige of America is quite wrong. That is, perhaps, one of the worst statements that I have ever heard. Since World
War II, I suppose, no country has made a greater attempt to do good in its own way for the world than has America. No nation has been more misunderstood. The United States put France and Germany on their feet. It helped also to restore the war torn countries of England and Italy. If there is one nation to which we can look with a good deal of pride for what it has done it is America. Perhaps it may have offended against some of the old protocol, but the deep rooted, deep seated desire of America is to see peace and prosperity in the world. To say that we are in Vietnam only to boost the prestige of America is distinctly wrong. America’s prestige stands high in the world. It is not sacrificing its men just for the love of it.
What makes me so cross is that honourable senators opposite do not mind sending volunteers to war. In their view it is a holy war if we send volunteers. To them, that is all right. I cannot see the difference. If somebody likes to stand between the enemy and us as a volunteer, honourable senators opposite say ‘Good luck’ to him. This country belongs as much to them as it does to me, and there is no more obligation upon me to volunteer to serve this country than there is upon anyone else. I believe that national service is a bounden duty. That is why I hate any deprecation of it. I am delighted to see what the Budget proposes to do for our national servicemen particularly in relation to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. The Government’s gesture is, I believe, only right and proper. Australia has a very fine record in looking after its returned soldiers, particularly those who have suffered war injuries. I know there are a few minor respects in which our repatriation benefits could be improved, but generally speaking the Australian people have done an extraordinarily good job for our returned servicemen.
I applaud the Government for extending the provisions of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund to national servicemen. Heaven knows, we do not want anyone killed or wounded, but if an Australian soldier is totally incapacitated and unable to follow his occupation he receives a pension of $65 a week. Of course if he is married, his wife and children receive other benefits as well. The Government’s action is a tribute to the Senate which fought for the extension of the benefits to our national servicemen. At this point I commend Senator Wright and others in this place who fought wholeheartedly for national servicemen because they are in a completely different category from the ordinary volunteer.
I hope that in the next few months the Government will decide to proceed with work on the Chowilla Dam. South Australia is still experiencing a drought, but we must look to the future. Some experts will say that there are difficulties in proceeding with the work and other experts, equally well versed, will say that the work should proceed. I am delighted that the Government has decided to allow farmers to claim, as a deduction for income tax purposes, expenditure involved in the construction of dams and the purchase of pipes for the reticulation of water. Sometimes we tend to think that only the enormous schemes for the harvesting of water are paying propositions, but the ordinary landholder sometimes can conserve and utilise water on his own property far better and far more cheaply than can any great scheme. I hope that the Government will see its way clear to continue work on the Chowilla Dam and to continue the taxation concession in relation to the conservation and reticulation of water on farms. I like to call this process the harvesting of water. I believe it is one of the best crops we can garner. I hope that some scheme will be evolved whereby the skills and experience of members of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority will be utilised throughout Australia.
I turn now to our transport system - our roads and particularly our railways. I hope that the railway lines from Port Pirie to Adelaide and from Whyalla to Iron Knob will soon become accomplished facts. The linking of South Australia’s railway system with the standard 4 ft 8i in gauge is well worth while. My final point in relation to transport relates to the transport of gas. There have been discoveries of natural gas at Gidgealpa in South Australia and offshore Victoria and Queensland. There should be a co-ordinated scheme for the gas pipelines to be laid so that Australia can be served in the best possible way. While the comparison may not be quite appropriate, let me say that we should avoid all the mistakes we made in having different railway gauges. I believe that the availability of power will play an enormous part in the future development of Australia, and for that reason we should have an overall plan for the transportation of the gas. I support the Budget and oppose the amendment.
– I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). I have listened to Senator Mattner’s speech. I think he is one of the most difficult men in this Senate to follow mainly because it is difficult to understand what he is talking about. I heard him refer to the Chowilla Dam in the concluding portion of what I consider was a somewhat rambling speech. I share his hopes that work on the project will be resumed, but as work has stopped completely I fear the worst. Any honourable senator from South Australia who cannot see the writing on the wall has not a great deal of perception. It is a tragedy for South Australia that this project which was so lauded in the Senate only a few years ago should now be written off and consigned to the limbo of the lost. Everyone knows that once work ceases on a project as big as this, it is the job of the century to get it started again. While I share most fervently the hope expressed by Senator Mattner that work will proceed, I must confess that I have the gravest doubts that the Chowilla Dam will ever become a reality. If it does not, part of the blame must be laid at the door of the present Government.
Like all other honourable senators, I have carefully read the Budget Speech. The Budget contains very few benefits. There are twenty-four pages of padding and, quite frankly, I share the view expressed by Senator Cohen who said last night that it contains many irrelevancies and quite a few inanities. I will cite what I consider to be a classic example of the many inanities which show themselves on every page. In his Speech the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in another place said this:
The rural industries will depend, as always, very much on seasonal conditions. For some major districts a good season is not assured as yet. But there can be no doubt that the rural industries, especially the wheat industry, are capable of greater production. Given a good season greater production will certainly be achieved.
It seems to me that to read an inane statement like that in a document of this character is something like meeting a person on the street who says to you: ‘If it does not rain it will be fine.’ You go away thinking that Bill is losing his grip. In addition to losing his hair, the Treasurer is also losing his grip.
However, I must commend the Treasurer for one thing. Appended to the Budget are quite a number of very useful tables which contain a lot of interesting and important information. I feel that this, to some extent, balances some of the inanities I mentioned which constitute the padding for the very minor benefits that the Budget contains. 1 hope that the practice of appending these tables to the Budget will be continued in future years because the information they contain helps honourable senators considerably to arrive at conclusions relating to the budgetary affairs of the Government.
Before I deal with the Budget, I want to refer to some of the points that were raised last night by Senator Cormack when making his contribution to this debate. It seemed to me that the honourable senator had been forced into what I consider was a somewhat unusual and somewhat dubious role for him, and that was to act as hatchet man for the Government. I have noticed that in the last fortnight he has spoken on some of the more controversial issues that this Senate has discussed. I would suggest to any keen students of politics that if they wanted to probe perhaps the greatest example of irresponsibility ever contained in the speech of a member of Parliament, they might give some study to Senator Cormack’s effort in respect to the matter raised by Senator Keeffe during the adjournment debate earlier this week when Senator Keeffe drew attention to the fact that passengers on an aircraft were off-loaded to make room for some stock that had to be transported. The passengers were inconvenienced by being put off the aircraft.
Last night Senator Cormack saw fit to devote probably 75% of his time not to defending the Budget that his Government had introduced, not to explaining to the Senate why some of the discrepancies in the Budget existed, not to attempting to give a clear exposition to people who may have been listening over the radio of what he thought of the Budget and its many disadvantages, but to attacking the Australian Labor Party. That exercise, of course, is in season at all times as far as the Government is concerned. In making this attack, Senator Cormack decided that it was not enough merely to attack the ALP; he attacked also the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and he attacked the Conservative Government of New Zealand. Apparently the New Zealand Government is not conservative enough for the honourable senator. Apparently the policies of the New Zealand Government are such that they do not meet with the approval of Senator Cormack, or the high standard that he calls for in government. In this exercise the honourable senator was trying to justify the statement that the policy of the Australian Labor Party was to place emphasis on spending in the public sector rather than in the private sector. In doing this he found it necessary to attack the Leader of the Labor Party, Mr Whitlam, and to use some terms which 1 considered were unparliamentary and unnecessary in the extreme. He made a point by suggesting that spending in the public sector - as exemplified, he said, in Great Britain - had created a situation in which some 500,000 people were unemployed in that country. The honourable senator was making the point that by emphasising spending in the public sector a government contributed to this sort of situation.
– Senator Cormack was pretty right.
– I will mention something that the honourable senator could have used last night as an ideal comparison if he had been attempting to find some other counter to spending in the public sector. He could have pointed to a country with standards comparable with our own, a country which concentrated on spending in the private sector, in order to show that its situation was immeasurably better than that of great Britain. Had the honourable senator done this there would have been some merit in the point he was making. After discussing Great Britain he could have directed his thoughts across the Atlantic to the United States of America. He could have said that in the USA, where spending in the private sector is almost a religion, there are 6,500,000 people unemployed. How does he reconcile this position with his criticism of the British Government? How does he reconcile the fact that, in addition to there being 6,500,000 unemployed in that great country, where spending in the private sector is almost a religion, there are also ghettos in which people are herded together, the racial question and conditions in which people are bursting out into revolution. This illustrates what happens when there has not been enough spending in the public sector. If there had been, perhaps the riots in Detroit and in the other great cities of the United States would not have happened. The great society which the late John Kennedy was seeking was a society that required spending in the public sector. Unfortunately, the society in which he believed and which he wanted to create has now become a dream.
I say to Senator Cormack, whose contributions have been rather inaccurate lately, that the way in which he has been behaving might be dictated by the fact that he has certain problems in his own State. Perhaps those problems have affected his judgment to some extent. I pay the honourable senator the compliment of saying that when he does apply himself to the pure essence of debate he is one of the most objective and best debaters in this Senate. I did not wish to devote part of my speech this afternoon to replying to what I considered to be one of the worst speeches made by the honourable senator when he spoke in the Senate last night.
If Senator Cormack thinks that it is an interesting exercise to speak about the misfortunes of political parties, and that it is a subject which should entertain the Senate, I will refer him to some of the things that are happening in his own State of Victoria. I have never considered that we should spend a lot of time in sniping at each other and trying to undermine the integrity of the political parties to which we belong. But Senator Cormack thought that this was the thing to do. Therefore I am going to reply to him.
– Do not spend time yourself, in doing so, senator.
– I think that I can safely say that I do not direct or initiate these types of attack. If Senator Webster can remember when I stood up in this chamber and started an exercise of this description and did not reply to it I should like him to give me an instance. What I am doing now is replying to an attack. I have been referring to the misfortunes of political parties, a subject which is so dear to the heart of Senator Cormack. I saw an article in the Melbourne ‘Age’ published today stating that the Federal President of the Liberal Party, Mr J. E. Pagan-
– That is a very suitable name for the leader of the Liberal Party.
– I will not comment on it. The article stated that Mr Pagan would warn the Government on Monday that it faces a formidable task in regaining control of the Senate in the coming election. The article names some of the subjects to be raised at the meeting, which will be held in private. Where is this much vaunted democratic party, a party which finds it necessary to hold its meetings in private? When the Australian Labor Party holds its Federal conference it is difficult to get inside the room because of the attendance of the Press, television representatives and the public. Apparently the Liberal Party has something to hide because it holds its meetings in private. What is going to happen at the conference on Monday? The writer states that there will be criticism of Australia’s increasing dependence on trade with Communist China. Apparently there are left wingers in the Party. This trade is almost traditional as far as the Liberals are concerned. The article states that other issues to be raised at the meeting include:
A bitter attack by the Victorian President . . . on the Country Party for its preference deal with Labor at the last State election, and another strong attack from Western Australia.
Further on the article states:
In an important motion before the council, Queensland will move that this council views with concern our trade relations with Communist China and the political implications of the increasing dependence of our wheat industry on the Chinese trade.’
When these matters were raised in this chamber a day or so ago by the Australian Labor Party it was stated that we were speaking for political purposes.
– What is the honourable senator reading from?
– From today’s Melbourne ‘Age’.
– Is it a newspaper report?
– The honourable senator should make clear what he is reading from.
-] did so at the beginning. 1 think that the Hansard report will show that I said earlier that I was quoting from the Melbourne ‘Age’ published today.
– The honourable senator will probably find that the report is pretty right.
– The statement about the Country Party is right.
– What was reported is pretty right.
– I am glad to hear the honourable senator say so. I am never loo sure that what I quote from a Press report is correct because sometimes the Press docs get a little astray in these matters. Senator Branson has now informed me that I have no need to worry because the statement in the ‘Age’ is correct.
– I did not say that. I said the honourable senator would probably find that it will turn out to be right.
– The honourable senator has given me a pretty hot tip, anyway. The article, continues:
In a bitter attack on the Country Party, Mr Southey says that the last State election in Victoria was ‘notable for shameless attempts to trallic in preferences between the State Country and Labor Parties, a traffic which fortunately revolted significant sections of the Country Party’.
He warns the Liberal Party that it can no longer assume that the preferences of the principal parlies ave predictable.
The State president of the Western Australian Liberal Party, Mr H. V. Halbert, says that ‘when their backs are to the wall the Country Parly, being a minority group, have nothing to lose and are therefore prepared to use any means to ensure their continued existence.
I do not know whether Senator Branson is prepared to give me an assurance that that is pretty well on the beam too, but 1 do not think I need any assurance. I think we can say that at least in this case the newspaper is very near the mark.
I come now to another statement made by a member of the Government, the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner), which appeared in the Melbourne
Herald’ yesterday. He is not afraid to criticise the Government. Apparently the Government can be criticised only by members of the Government. We are not allowed to do it. Mr Turner said: to draw the Captain’s attention to the fact that the bilges are leaking is nol treason though it may be presumptuous for an ordinary seaman on this ship - called a back-bencher - to suggest how thu! might be repaired.
He also said that he did not see the point in back benchers on the Government side being no more than a chorus of Beatles chanting: ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah’ and having to agree to whatever the Government said. Then he went on with the classic that the Menzies Government was like that of Sir Robert Walpole, the eighteenth century leader, inasmuch as the policy of both was: Let sleeping dogs lie’. Apparently the honourable member for Bradfield is not very happy with the Government and its operations. I leave there the question relating to what we call sniping at other political parties which was so effectively introduced into the debate last night by Senator Cormack. I get no pleasure out of doing these things, but I do want to make the point that it is easy enough when one is on the giving end but not so easy when one is on the receiving end. I remind those honourable senators on the Government side who would launch snide attacks on the leadership of the Labor Party, or the Labor Party itself, or its counterparts in other countries that if we sift down through the mud we can find the same type of thing to throw back at them. When all is said and done, nothing is gained or achieved by this sort of thing and the person who initiates it has nothing to be proud of.
Having said that, 1 wish to touch on some of the matters with which the Budget does deal. 1 say this after wading through the 24 pages of padding to which I have referred. The Budget provides certain defence force retirement benefits. It increases international aid by $9m. It increases defence aid to Malaysia by $6m. In the field of social services, the increases in child endowment are typically small and are of no benefit to those parents who have three or fewer children. I do not want to cover the whole field that has already been covered by other honourable senators. Indeed, one of the difficulties that confronts all those who come in late in the debate, all those who come in as seventh or eighth batsman, is to avoid repetition. I have always tried to avoid it, but sometimes in doing so perhaps have missed some point that 1 should have taken up.
I come now to the benefits which the Budget confers. There are some benefits for the moderately retarded. There is provision for the hiring of hearing aids to pensioners and there is to be some relief for deserted wives. Before moving to the next point, let mc emphasise that relief for deserted wives is one of the things for which the Government is to be commended. It is a matter that has exercised the minds of people on both sides of the chamber. Year after year honourable senators on both sides express their concern at this great social problem. The Government is to be congratulated upon taking this step to call a conference with the State authorities with a view to arriving at an effective scheme to which it is prepared to contribute in order to give a better deal to these people who may be considered the lost legion of the community. As one who has never been backward in criticising the Government, I am prepared to say that this is at least one step for which I am prepared to commend it.
But the Budget makes no attempt to come to grips with the real social problems of this country, lt makes no attempt to come to grips with the problem of poverty. There is no doubt that we as a nation lend lo close our eyes to the fact that there is dire poverty in our community. In the great capital cities of Melbourne and Sydney, and to a lesser extent in the capital city of my own State as well as the capital cities in other States, there are people living on standards that perhaps even the Asiatics would find it difficult to bear. We know these things, but we simply sweep them under the carpet, as it were, making no attempt to correct them. For the last 4 or 5 years we on this side of the chamber have been trying lo urge upon the Government the need for some sort of national inquiry into the pockets of poverty that undoubtedly exist in Australia. To give them credit, the members of the Democratic Labor Party have supported us. We argue that after the inquiry we should make use of the information obtained to take some positive steps lo eradicate this problem. It is of no use for this country to try to set itself up as an example to other countries if we cannot cure some of the fundamental evils that exist in our own community.
Another thing that seems to have become a permanent feature of our economy is sales tax. We had hopes many years ago when this was first introduced as an urgency measure - and it was introduced as one - that the need for its imposition would pass. But unfortunately we seem to have made it a permanent feature of the economy and there would appear to be no escape from this form of indirect taxation which takes so much out of the pockets of everyone in the community. 1 raise it now not because I have any real hope that anything will be done about it but at least to let the Government know that it has not been quite forgotten.
The Budget does not really offer any bright hope for the future. It has been described by the newspapers, amongst other much more uncomplimentary terms, as a stay-put Budget. To mc there is nothing exciting about it. It does little or nothing to stimulate the national growth of this country. I remind those who get up in. the clouds and think that because there are no major upheavals in the country everything in the garden is lovely, of the following significant passage which appears on page 34 of Treasury Information Bulletin No. 47, published in July of this year:
The number of persons engaged on jobs carried out by builders of new buildings decreased over the year to March 1967 by 7,300 or 4.7%. The number engaged on new houses and flats declined by 800 or 1.2%, and the number engaged on other building jobs declined by 6,500 or 7.6%.
Imports of producers’ materials for use in building and construction amounted to $27. 4m in 3 months lo May 1967 compared with $2 1.9m in the corresponding months of 1966.
When we see significant trends such as those manifesting themselves in one of our most delicate and touchy industries we have no cause to feci happy about the situation and we certainly have no reason for believing that this Budget will cure to any great extent some of the major problems confronting our country.
– Did not the honourable senator indicate that a greater volume of. building materials was being imported this year than last year?
– Yes I did; but that does not mean much.
– 1 wondered why the honourable senator referred to that.
– 1 thank Senator Webster for raising that point, lt had escaped me. I was about to refer to another matter. I drew attention to it because we are importing more building materials at a time when unemployment in the building industry is increasing and when production in the housing and other fields is falling. That is an indication not that we have anything about which we should bc pleased but that we have something about which we should be alarmed, lt means that we are not producing these materials in our own country.
– Each year there are improvements in efficiency in the handling of materials.
– That could be so. I am not disagreeing wilh the honourable senator. 1 am saying that the feature lo which I referred and which is mentioned in the ‘Treasury Information Bulletin” should cause alarm and is not something about which wc should be happy.
I come now to a point on which I will spend a little time. It is a matter that 1 raised with the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) earlier this year. I suggested that the time might have arrived when the Government should give consideration to. the establishment of a Federal Bureau of Narcotics. In the preface to my question I indicated the great alarm that was being felt in all sections of the community at the greatly increased incidence of drug taking in Australia. At that time the Minister stated that he did not think there was any likelihood that the Government would entertain such a proposal. He suggested that his officers had the position well in hand. lt is significant that since I asked that question and received that answer many questions have been asked on this matter and much publicity has been given to it in most of the newspapers of Australia. This culminated in the adjournment motion that was moved by Senator Turnbull yesterday He pointed out, some of the dangers asso ciated with the widespread use of this new drug called LSD. He is a medical man, but he was honest enough to inform the Senate that he did not have much idea at all about the possible effects of this drug on the youth of this country. That opens up the point that the Government, through its Department of Health or some of the other avenues open to it, should give consideration to supplying the Senate and the House of Representatives with the facts relating to the effects of this drug on human beings and the extent to which it could undermine the moral fibre of the young people of this nation and damage them physically. If there is one matter on which we need information it is this one.
Only this week the Minister tor Customs and Excise stated in reply to a question about drugs that his Department had sent a man overseas to observe what action is being taken in other countries to prevent the widespread use of drugs. Everybody must applaud that action. The tragedy is that the Government did not think :A doing that before now. I noticed in today’s Sydney Daily Telegraph’ a report of a statement by the Chief Justice of New South Wales, Sir Leslie Herron, which read:
The Chief Justice (Sir Leslie Herron) said yesterday the drug addiction problem in Sydney ‘was serious but not disastrous’. He said the position here was ‘not nearly as disastrous us it was in New York and London’.
– In what capacity did he make that statement? Did he make it from the bench or at a meeting?
– The report states:
Sir Leslie is chairman of the advisory committee of the Sydney University Institute of Criminology.
It is obvious that he made the statement at a meeting of that body. The point that I make is that the problem would not need to be as bad as it is in New York and London. Indeed, if Sir Leslie Herron, with his specialised knowledge, had been able to say that the problem in Australia was as bad as that in New York and London we could say that we had lost the battle and had failed to rescue the young people of this country from the drug menace.
The position in Australia obviously is becoming very serious, lt is so serious that it completely justifies the action taken by Senator Turnbull yesterday and, in my opinion, merits a far more searching scrutiny and a far more responsive attitude on the part of the Government than it was prepared to adopt yesterday when Senator Turnbull so rightly raised this matter. It is no secret that he was far from happy with the response that he received from the Government on what he believed was a matter that should have been engaging the very close attention of the Senate.
I return to the question that I asked the Minister for Customs and Excise earlier this year about the possible establishment of a Federal Bureau of Narcotics. The United States has had such a body for many years, lt has the responsibility of the issue and enforcement of narcotic import and export permits. It is charged with the investigation, detection and prevention of violations of (he federal narcotic and marihuana laws, and of the Opium Poppy Control Act of 1942. It issues permits to import the crude narcotic drugs and to export drugs and preparations manufactured therefrom under the laws and regulations, and determines the quantities of narcotic drugs to be manufactured in the United Slates for medical and scientific purposes. Those are only some of the duties of that organisation. Obviously the people of the United States have found it necessary to have it as part of the war against drug taking and drug running in that country. 1 put it seriously to the Senate that, despite the fact that the Minister for Customs and Excise poured cold water on my suggestion that Australia should embark immediately on the formation of a Federal Bureau of Narcotics, such a body will definitely be established in the not too distant future.
– Would it be a scientific body?
– The American Bureau is a semi-scientific body. As I read the Act under which it is constituted, its main purpose is the ordering of the drug irade and the carrying out of the measures that are necessary to protect the community from illegal trafficking in drugs.
– I have in mind a statement that we heard in the last few days to the effect that the Commonwealth Department of Health had no laboratory in which these drugs could be tested and had to send them back to the manufacturers for analysis.
– That is true.
– A body of the type suggested by the honourable senator would certainly help the constitutional position.
– It certainly would. The problem at the moment is that, when we raise in this Federal Parliament matters such as the effective prevention of narcotic drug trafficking in this country, a Minister stands up and says that that is the responsibility of the States. Yet everybody knows that the States will not take collective action on a matter which is as big as this and which requires such preparation, in the erection of structures and in other ways, unless the Commonwealth gives them a lead. As far back as I can remember, the State governments have never taken any cohesive action that resulted in a united approach to any matter unless the Commonwealth gave a lead and initiated the action that was necessary to bring them together.
– As it did with tuberculosis.
– As Senator Willesee has reminded me, as it did with tuberculosis. Whenever a Minister rises in this Senate and says that, the matter is largely one for the States, that is only another way of escaping the degree of responsibility that rightly rests on the Commonwealth.
– Buck passing.
– Exactly. No honourable senator, whether he is on the Government side or on this side of the chamber, could say with any degree of confidence that (he States will take concerted action if the Commonwealth does not give them the lead. If any honourable senator is prepared to argue that. I would bc interested lo argue the matter with him. What really matters is to take, some action in relation lo drugs. The position should not be allowed to deteriorate, as it has done in the last 2 years. We pick up the newspapers from time to time and see where some young man in his early 20s has died because of an overdose of drugs or addiction to drugs and that schoolchildren are being fed drugs which are readily available in all kinds of insidious forms, and wc say that the matter is one for the States.
– And being fed to a 4 weeks old baby.
– And. as Senator Gair said, being fed to a 4 weeks old baby. We take refuge in the fact that the matter is one for the States and we do nothing about it. New South Wales has taken steps in a legislative sense to do something about the drug LSD. That does not mean that the other States intend to do the same. If history is a guide we have no guarantee thai the other States will follow the lead of New South Wales.
– Victoria would be the leading State in this matter. It has very light control over this drug traffic - more so th:m any other Stale.
– J agree. The fact that Victoria has tight control and compares more than favourably with the other States in relation to the control of drugs only emphasises the hotch potch nature of the whole business. One should not be able to say that State X has a greater degree of control and protection than State Y. One should be able to say that the youth of this country is adequately protected against drugs by every measure that the Commonwealth and the State governments between them can devise. That is the only criterion.
– Would the honourable senator put alcohol in that category?
– I do not know that alcohol has the same soul destroying effect at a general level as drug taking has. It may have.
– Taken to extreme, yes.
– Taken to extreme, yes. I am not here to act as an authority on the relative damage done by either. I am exhorting the Senate to take some action In relation to drugs. Having said that, I leave the matter there. As I said at the beginning, I support the amendment moved by- the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) and hope that those who listened to his speech will derive some benefit from it.
– ll is always difficult to follow Senator Toohey because he presents his argument iti such a gentlemanly fashion, lt would be hard to take him to task in any other way than in the way in which he presents his argument. I will try lo do that. He spoke about Senator Cormack’s speech last night. Senator Cormack’s speech must have touched a fairly tender spot somewhere to have raised the ire of Senator Toohey. Senator Toohey said that Senator Cormack was quite wrong in talking about Mr Whitlam in the way that he did. .1 put it to Senator Toohey and to the Senate that Mr Whitlam is not only just a member of Parliament; he is the leader of a political party.
– And a future Prime Minister.
– He has hopes of being the Prime Minister of this country. Senator Toohey castigated members on this side for not defending the Budget. It does not have to be defended. He said that Senator Cormack was quite wrong in not defending the Budget but in indulging in asides and attacking the Australian Labor Party and Mr Whitlam. Senator Toohey spent a quarter of an hour on this. In a kindly way he was virtually attacking Senator Cormack. In a most avuncular way Senator Toohey said that we should not talk party politics on the Budget, that we should not indulge in this.
– No, 1 did not say that. I referred to personal attacks. I did not say anything about party politics.
– Well, personal attacks on the Labor Party.
– On anybody.
– The Senate would be a very dull place if we did not have attacks politically on each other on a party basis.
– I said personal attacks.
– I will accept that. Senator Toohey then went on rather cleverly to try to drive a wedge between the Country Party and the Liberal Party, based on an article in today’s ‘Age’. I interjected and said that Senator Toohey would probably find that most of the article was Hue. 1 do not know that 1 can go much further in a gentlemanly way in answering Senator Toohey. I think 1 can finish that part of my speech now.
I want to deal with one part of the Budget which appeals to me and, I think, to every other Australian. J believe that it appeals to honourable senators opposite. It is the part that deals with international aid. 1 think the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) was quite right when he said that our aid is not as well known as it should be. The average person in the street does not understand that our aid is in grants, that it is not repayable, that it is not in the form of interest bearing loans and that it is not tied. That is very important. Other countries give aid, but there are strings attached to it. When one stops to think that only France among the countries of the West, as the Treasurer pointed out, can point to a better performance than what Australia is doing-
– That is a very misleading quote.
– I am prepared to accept the Treasurer’s statement on this. Senator Willesee may argue the matter later. Now 1 come to what I think is politics in the Budget - the postal charges. It will be with a great deal of interest that the Senate watches to see how dinkum the Australian Labor Party is in relation to this aspect of the Budget.
– The honourable senator’s Party has to set a definite example in regard to the re-organisation of Saturday postal duties - something which it has not been prepared to do so far.
– 1 will come to that in a moment. I will have something further to say about that. There is a report in today’s press about postal services. The Senate will watch to see how dinkum the Australian Labor Party was in costing the taxpayers of this country a lot of money to bring the full Senate back here for a political stunt. It was no more than a stunt, and it will be proved so, I. venture to say, when the vole is taken on Senator McM anus’s amendments in respect of postal charges. Then the Senate will know whether the Australian Labor Party was dinkum. The actions of honourable senators opposite then will show that it was a political stunt and that they did not care how much it cost the taxpayers of this country just to try to achieve a political advantage.
I want (o mention one other point in the Budget which I regard as being most important before moving on to defence and external relations - that is, the beef cattle roads in the Northern Territory. Again [ do not think that enough people know the amount of money that has been spent on these excellent roads. As a member of the Public Works Committee 1 had the honour and pleasure of inspecting two new roads.
Sitting suspended from S.45 (o 8 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) proposed: That the following Orders of the Day, General Business, be discharged:
No. 1 - Conciliation and Arbitration Commission1 - Paper - Motion to take note of Paper - Resumption df debate upon the motion, That the Senate take note of the Paper.
No. 2 - Tarin” Hoard Report - Ministerial Statement - Motion to take note of Statement - Resumption of debate upon the motion, That the Senate lake note of the Statement.
No. 3 - -Bass Strait Gas and Oil Discoveries - Ministerial Statement - Motion to take note of Statement - Resumption of debate upon the motion. That the Senate take note of the Statement.
No. 4 - Australian Honey Board - Paper - Motion lo take note of Paper - Resumption of debate upon the motion. Thai the Senate take note of the Paper.
No. 5 - Post-Graduate Research FinanceResumption of debate upon the motion. Thai the Senate expresses its concern at the failure to make such arrangements as would ensure adequate finance for post-graduate research in the Universities.
No. 6 - Quota System in Universities - Resumption of debate upon the motion, That the Senate expresses its concern at tinexistence and extent of the quota system in the Universities and requests that the Commonwealth Government consult with the States with a view to eliminating or reducing the quota system.
No. 7 - Common Market Negotiations - Ministerial Statement - Motion to take note of Statement - Resumption of debate upon the motion, That the Senate take note of the Statement.
No. 9 - Uniform Literature Censorship - Ministerial Statement - Motion to take note of Statement - Resumption of debute upon the motion, That the Senate take note of the Statement.
No. II - Chowilla Dam Project - Ministerial Statement - Motion to take note of Statement - Resumption of debate upon motion, That the Senate take note of the Statement.
– I oppose the motion. Senator Murphy has moved for the discharge of a number of items listed as General Business which have been on the notice paper for some time. They were referred lo by him in a speech in the Senate, reported in Hansard of Wednesday, 16th August 1967. He said:
There are other motions on the notice paper. There is a motion by Senator Cohen that a Standing Committee on Science be appointed. There are orders of the day. They include the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission’s annual report and the Tarin: Board report which remain to be dealt with. There is a ministerial statement on Hass Strait gas and oil discoveries. There is the report of the Australian Honey Board. A debate on the failure of the Government to make such arrangements as would ensure adequate ti nance for post-graduate research in the universities stands adjourned. Debate on a motion relating to the quota system in the universities has not been concluded. Senator Cohen proposed that matter. Senator Marriott was in full flight when the debute was adjourned.
Senator Murphy has yet to speak on the annual report, of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. 1 do not know whether he wants to hear himself on the subject, but I can assure him that honourable senators on this side of the chamber would like to hear him. A number of honourable senators on this side of the chamber would also like to deal with this important matter, lt is still listed on the notice paper and I would not agree that it should be discharged. Senator O’Byrne has not concluded his speech on the Tariff Board report. I am sure that we would like to hear Senator O’Byrne speak on that matter. I have not concluded my remarks on the ministerial statement on the Bass Strait gas and oil discoveries. I do not take it lightly that the Leader of the Opposition should want to discharge that matter and wipe out my chance to speak on it. It is of great interest and I would like to make some comments on it to the Senate. The Third Annual Report of the Australian Honey
Board is Order of the Day No. 4. Again Senator O’Byrne has not finished his speech. The debate on postgraduate research finance was adjourned before Senator Murphy had completed his speech.
– We do not want to hear him.
– I know that, and I know that other honourable senators opposite want to take the arrangement of business out of his hands. However, we would like to hear him speak on these matters. Order of the Day No. 6 refers to the quota system in universities. My colleague Senator Marriott had not concluded his speech and I do not think he would take lightly to being cut out tonight. Senator Cohen is to continue his remarks on Common Market negotiations. This subject covers a very wide area and 1 feel confident that the Senate would like to hear Senator Cohen on it. We like to hear him speak on any subject and I am sure we would like to hear him on this matter. Senator Murphy in his motion did not include Order of the Day No. 8: ‘Two to One Ratio’ - Extract from ‘Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth’. This matter is in the hands of Senator Gair. I am sure that he has not said all he wishes to say on it. I do not think that prior to the referendum he really made the position clear and I am also sure that if Senator Gair missed anything, Senator McManus would like to cover it for him. This is a most important matter. Senator Murphy has not finished his speech on uniform literature censorship. The last time that I heard the honourable senator speak on literature censorship was a long time ago. He was to speak again the following morning but Caucus decided that he should not, so we did not hear him. We would like to hear him again on that subject.
The debate on the Chowilla Dam project has been adjourned. I am not sure how the South Australian senators of the Opposition feel who have signed the notice of motion which still appears on the notice paper. I refer to Senators Murphy, Bishop, Cavanagh. Drury, Nicholls, Ridley and Toohey. I do not know whether they ate prepared to have the subject of the Chowilla Dam project removed from the notice paper without further discussion by the Senate. 1 do not think we could live with that position. Most of the matters under discussion were put on the notice paper by the Opposition. Honourable senators opposite considered them to be serious matters and we have treated them as such. Thursday night is the night for General Business and the opportunity is given to discuss it. I do not think that Senator Murphy really understands what we have done for him in this field. Of course, he is new in his position.
At the time of the last Budget debate I moved the usual motion that Government Business take precedence over General Business for the duration of the Budget debate. The motion was carried and there was no opportunity for discussion of General Business. The debate on the Budget is to last for 4 weeks. Because these urgent matters were placed on the notice paper by the Leader of the Opposition and other honourable senators opposite I have not moved a similar motion on this occasion. I have allowed General Business to be discussed on three nights which normally would be devoted to Government Business, taking precedence over General Business during the Budget debate.
– The Minister has done that to preserve the rights of the Opposition.
– And to enable them to discuss these important matters. I do not think the Leader of the Opposition realises what we have done for him. Tonight he calmly says: ‘These are not .important matters. Just wipe them off. Do nOr discuss them at all. Do not debate them.- Really, this is a cavalier way in which to treat the Senate and 1 am astounded. If these are not important matters they should not have been placed on the notice paper. They are on the notice paper and we have given them considerable thought and study. Wo want to debate them. Honourable senators on this side of the chamber have a great deal to contribute on these important subjects, the first one of which is the annual report of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I would have thought that honourable senators opposite would have been interested in this matter. I would have thought it to be of great interest to them and an opportunity for them to Say what they think on behalf of the workers of Australia. Yet, wc are cavalierly told by the
Leader of the Opposition that this is of no importance and that we are going to wipe it out. I strongly oppose any such suggestion. We on this side of the Senate wish to continue the discussion of *he items under the heading General Business on (he notice paper.
We met tonight for that purpose. So far in the session I have not proposed the motion that Government business take precedence over general business. But I put the Leader of the Opposition on notice that I may have to move it next week. The whole of the attention of the Senate has been occupied with discussions of matters of urgency. We have hardly had time to deal with any items under General Business at all. There has been one urgency matter after another. The business of the Senate has been taken out of the hands of the Government by the Opposition by the introduction of those matters. Two motions seeking the disallowance of certain regulations are to be discussed next week. The discussion of those motions will take up a great deal of our time. In view of this, I am alerting the Leader of the Opposition to the fact that I will probably be moving next week for Government business to take precedence over General Business because we must shortly finish this Budget debate. Amendments have been moved to my motion for the printing’ of the Budget papers by the Leader of the Opposition and Senator McManus. If my reading of those amendments is correct they confirm what we all realise and that is that the Budget is (he most important document now before the Parliament. Next week we shall want lo debate the Budget further and bring the debate to a finish. So, for this wealth of reasons I oppose the motion. The Leader of the Opposition did not give us any reason why we should abandon the discussion of these matters.
– He wants to save lime.
– If the Leader of the Opposition wants to save time, why were these motions put. on the notice paper in the first place? Let me say that the first motion regarding the annual report of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission refers to a document of tremendous interest to Australia which leads the -world in the field of arbitration. I would have thought that this was one report that the Opposition would have been only too happy to debate if it genuinely feels that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is in the interests of the workers of Australia. I say on behalf of honourable senators on this side of ‘ the House that we will vote against the motion proposed by the Leader of the Opposition. We wish to proceed in an orderly fashion by discussing the orders of the day as they come forward - No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, No. 5, No. 6 and so on - and dispose of them in the order in which they appear on the notice paper. That is the altitude of honourable senators on this side of the House.
– Mr President, I wish to support the objection that has come from this side of the Senate from the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty) regarding what I feel is an unprecedented motion proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy), This is a motion that he could scarcely have proposed if he had a proper understanding of the operations of this House of the Parliament. What we are doing tonight and what we have done on other Thursday nights is to discuss general business. Matters which particular senators wish to raise take precedence over Government business at this time. This night is set aside for this purpose, lt is not set aside for the purpose of the Leader of the Opposition deciding what should be discussed on Thursday night. It is set aside so that private senators, no matter what party they may belong to, may have the opportunity to raise particular matters which they consider lo be of public importance. These are put on the notice paper for discussion on Thursday night so that this chamber of (he Parliament can take proper cognisance of them. lt is no more than a fortnight ago when the Leader of the Opposition, feeling in his hip pocket to make sure that his air ticket was there so that he could leave, objected to the adjournment of the Senate at thai time and made the point to the Senate that (he matters which were on the notice paper, which he now wishes to wipe off, were of some national importance. He pointed out that before the Senate was a motion from one of his own senators, Senator Cavanagh. The honourable senator was not in continuation, but he had initiated debate on the annual report of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I think that this is a report which is of some significance. This report of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission lends to this House of the Parliament a proper opportunity to see the operations of the Commission in relation to the workers who are safeguarded, by it, to make criticisms of its operations and to discuss even whether an overall basic wage should or should not be supported.. But now the Leader of the Opposition wishes to wipe this matter off the notice paper.
The Leader of the Opposition pointed out - I do not agree with him, but nevertheless he has pointed it out - that the report of the Australian Honey Board is of some great national significance.” Therefore, he said, we ought to stay back at that time - a fortnight ago - to discuss the report made by the Australian Honey Board. The Leader of the Opposition said the same thing in relation to the ministerial statement on Bass Strait Gas and Oil Discoveries. But the Leader of the Opposition at that time made one mistake, lt was not a mistake then; it is a mistake now. He pointed out how there was before this House of the Parliament a motion that on one of these Thursday nights wc should discuss the shortcomings of the Commonwealth scholarships scheme. That was all right when he was making his last speech. Since that time, on his own initiative the Leader of the Opposition has wiped that matter off the notice paper altogether. I hope that he puts it back. I do concede him the point that he wiped it off. J think he did it by mistake. But he did take it off the notice paper.
There arc other matters on the notice paper now for discussion.. There is the report of the Australian Honey Board. There is the motion by the Leader of the Opposition in relation to post-graduate research finance. The Leader of the Opposition wants to stop further discussion on that motion. Perhaps he has had enough of it. i would not be surprised if he has had enough of it. We find also an adjournment debate on quota systems in universities and an adjournment debate on a ministerial statement on Common Market Negotiations. All of these things were important only a fortnight ago when the Leader of the Opposition said that we should stay back to discuss them because of their importance. They are important now. I only go so far as to say that, if these matters were as important then as the Leader of the Opposition said they were, they are just as important now.
That is not the really basic point. What is the really basic point at issue here is whether those senators from one side or the other who were in continuation in debating these matters - which the Leader of the Opposition said were so important - by the motion proposed by the Leader of the Opposition should be gagged and should be prevented from going on with the speeches that they wished to make to the Senate on these matters which the Leader of the Opposition said were so important. The Leader of the Opposition takes it upon himself to get up here, on the occasion when a private member has the chance to discuss something that he considers of importance, with an arrogance that is beginning to characterise him as a Leader of the Opposition, to say that no matter what honourable senators may wish to do regarding the matters which are before the Senate-
– I rise to a point of order.
– Oh, here we go again. You cannot take it.
– Senator Gorton has just said something that is highly offensive to mc. 1 am sure that it is Offensive to all senators. He has made personal imputations
– Sit down, you mug.
– I will not sit down, and I am not a mug. 1 take exception to Senator Gorton making personal insinuations against the Leader of the Opposition. He said that he spoke with an arrogance that characterises him. Not only does it conic from the mouth of an arrogant mug- the PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) - Order!
– Now let him take exception to that.
– The point of order is not upheld.
– I have made my point of order.
– Not only do I not take exception to the things that fall from the mouths of children-
– You are an arrogant mug.
– . . . but, quite frankly, what-
– A Fascist mug.
– Order! Senator O’Byrne. you will withdraw that remark.
– Which remark?
– Fascist mug.
– Oh, yes. I will just withdraw Fascist.
– No, you will not. You will withdraw the lot.
– I will withdraw the lot.
- Senator O’Byrne, you will withdraw the words you used.
– I will withdraw the words I used.
– Thank you. very much. Mr President. But, frankly, I do not mind what he says one way or the other-
– I do not mind what you say either.
– Apparently the honourable senator did because he raised an objection to it. I did not raise an objection to what he said. Why can’t you sit down, take it, and then give it back again.
– I will give it back.
– There is one point on which the senator who has just taken a point of order that was not upheld is completely inaccurate. He said that he was sure that the remarks I had made were objectionable to all senators. They are not objectionable to me and I am pretty sure that they are not objectionable to a lot of people on this side of the chamber. To return to where I was at the beginning - I believe that this is an instance of an arrogance which is becoming more and more evident. The Leader of the Opposition-
– I take a point of order. It is offensive and it is improper to so describe an action that was taken by another senator in accordance with the Standing Orders of this chamber, and 1 ask that the remarks be withdrawn.
– Speaking to the point of order - I have noted this temerity about the Opposition recently, and about the manner in which honourable senators opposite take objections. It never happens on our side. They say all sorts of things. One said of me the other day that I was dishonest, but I said that I did not mind that coming from him.
– I rise to order. I object to the Minister saying that I said that.
– Order! Is the honourable senator taking a point of order or making a personal explanation?
– I ask for leave to make a personal explanation.
– Order! The honourable senator cannot do that at this stage.
– I did not accuse the Minister of being dishonest. I said that the Government was dishonest in its trade with China. That is what I said.
– The honourable senator may make his explanation later.
– If anybody cares to read Hansard he will see not once but many times dotted throughout the speeches of Opposition senators the accusation of arrogance on our side of the chamber, to which we have taken not the slightest exception. We are prepared to take it and to deal it back again. But these tender beings who sit on the other side want to give it out and as soon as we return it they get all tender and rise to take points of order. I am sorry, but I must really object to this and oppose this point of order, because this word to which the Leader of the Opposition takes exception has been thrown at us from the other side not once but many times during debates in this chamber. Why then, when we quite genuinely, as the speaker apparently thinks, use this expression, should they be so tender about it?
– Is the Minister foi Education and Science to speak in continuation?
– I do not know yet. Does (he honourable senator want to take another point of order?
– The point of order is not upheld. 1 ask Senator Gorton not to continue (o use the word ‘arrogance’.
- Mr President, can you suggest a synonym which might be applied lo an individual who moves a motion which prevents other senators from exerting their rights in this Senate and from continuing the remarks that they were in the process of making? If you can think of any synonym for arrogance, Mr President, 1 shall substitute it for that word.
– Stubbornness or selfishness.
– I do not think that those words properly describe the situation which I was describing. I take it from your ruling on the point of order, Mr President, that 1 have nol to withdraw the expression that it is arrogant for a particular senator to move a motion which will deprive other senators of the chance of speaking. You do not want me to use the word again, is that the position?
– I do not care.
– I am not asking the honourable senator. 1 am asking the President. 1 lake it, Sir, that you do not warn me to use thai particular word again.
– I prefer that you do not.
– You prefer that I do nol, on account of this point of order? J will endeavour to think of some other word which describes the situation so accurately but I find it very difficult al the moment lo think what that word could be. lt is noticeable, Mr President, at this point of time in this debate, as it has been noticeable before, how when one is endeavouring to advance an argument and to advance it without pulling punches and to say exactly what one thinks about a situation, one is always interrupted by the taking of points of order by a number of individuals in the Opposition who do not seem lo be able io accept that situation. We had an example of it at question time today when, in reply to a question from Senator Branson, I was pointing out exactly what the foreign policy of the Australian Labor Party was. The Leader of the Opposition got up and sought to gag me and to say that it was not fair. Yet a little later Senator Cavanagh, without any variation at all. restated the policy of the Labor Party exactly as I had restated it - that it would give an ultimatum to the Americans to get out of Vietnam and if they did not get out we would get out. If T may say so, in a House of the Parliament it really does become rather inhibiting and childish if statements which ure made in good faith and accura’ely are to be interrupted by these court room tactics, by this inability-
– I rise to order.
– Ah. a point of order.
– What I said about Labor’s policy was accurate whereas the Minister’s remarks were not relevant to the question.
– Is the honourable senator making a personal explanation?
– No. 1 am raising a point of order as to the relevancy of the Minister’s remarks.
– The point of order is not upheld.
– Had I been asked what the relevancy was. I would have said that the relevancy was to the attitude of the Opposition in raising court room points of order which were not strictly points of order, by which they sought to get out of a situation in which they were being subjected to a perfectly proper verbal attack.
– What does the Minister mean by ‘court room points of order’?
– Jumping up to take pretentious points which have no substance, by which they hope to waste lime and which will divert attention. Honourable senators opposite are all speaking at once. If they interjected one at a time that would be fine. I cannot understand them when they all speak at once and it makes it more difficult for me to reply. To come back to what I was saying, I am at a loss for a word to use in view of your ruling, Mr President, lt is of significance when it is believed by the Leader of the Opposition in this place that it is proper for him to get up and seek to wipe off the notice paper of the Senate two motions that are there, concerning which a number of other individual senators are in continuation and may well have remarks that they would want to make in relation to these matters.
– It is an imperious attitude.
– Imperious - that is the word that 1 want. It has been suggested in the course of this debate that the Leader of the Opposition is doing this in order to save time. I have forgotten who suggested that. I think it was Senator Cant.
– I did.
– I apologise to Senator Cant. Senator Ormonde said that the reason why the Leader of the Opposition wanted to wipe these items off ‘he notice paper and prevent Senator Cohen and Senator Marriott from continuing was that the Leader of the Opposition wanted to save time. If he wants to save time, why did he put so many of them on the notice paper in the first place? If they are of no significance, if they are of no importance, it they can be wiped off in order to save time, why did he go to the trouble of putting them on the notice paper in the first place?
– They are nol ready to go on. They are not prepared.
– I would not like to make an imputation of that kind against the Leader of the Opposition. 1 might be subject to the same kind of accusation. Here we have an attempt to override the rights of individual senators which is completely out of character with the public protestations of the present Leader of the Labor Party in the Senate. It bodes ill for the chances of individual senators in this Parliament if he ever attains the position in which he had the numbers to prevent them exercising their rights - they are guaranteed those rights at the present time - to express their opinions subject, of course, to their own decisions.
We should reject absolutely the proposal put before us by the Leader of the Labor
Party in this place. He seeks to gag not only his own supporters but Government supporters as well. A motion such as the one he has proposed should never have been brought before this House of the Parliament. I can only express the hope that when this matter comes to a decision, as I believe it will, the Senate will express its opinion of this attempt to interfere with the rights of individual senators.
– For the last half hour we have witnessed something which has not enhanced the value of our parliamentary system of government. We have listened to one of the greatest farces that I have ever heard - and I have been associated with the parliamentary life of this country for more than 30 years. None of us in this chamber tonight can claim that wc have contributed anything towards building up the value of our parliamentary system of government by the manner in which this debate has been conducted. I feel somewhat consoled by the fact that the public galleries are dear and that there are very few people about other than Government supporters. We are very fortunate that the Press is as alert as it usually is when I am speaking and that the public will never learn of this burlesque of the parliamentary system of Parliament.
– Come on, get on with it.
– I will get on wilh it and 1 will say at the outset that I rise in opposition to the motion Ibr the discharge of certain orders of the day. I do that as a matter of principle as a representative of a minority Party. 1 rise to protect the right of the Opposition and of the minority Party in this Parliament. To accept the motion would bc to forfeit our right to discuss matters that we nominated for discussion and that we have a right to discuss under the heading of General Business.
– The honourable senator is on a 2 in 1 ratio in his Party.
– Senator O’Byrne would not know what he was on.
– Why did not the honourable senator bring up his motion in relation to the 2 to 1 ratio?
– I feel very flattered that the Leader of the Opposition omitted Order of the Day No. 8 from his motion. I intend giving thc Senate a further opportunity lo discuss the 2 to I ratio between the House of Representatives and the Senate. I would have been glad lo do that but 1 could not.
– That is the nexus question.
– The honourable senator has heard about that, has he? No doubt he has heard also about the result of the recent vote in Victoria. Let me say in all seriousness that the motion before the Senate represents a very important departure on lnc part of the Leader of the Opposition. By his motion he is forfeiting the rights of the Opposition in this place. As one who has been a leader of a government, I can say that 1 have always respected the rights of the Opposition. I will light to the bitter end lo sec that wc always have the right lo discuss in this Parliament matters of our choice. If the Government is to determine what business shall bc dealt with in thc House and deny (o the official Opposition, the DLP and the two Independents the right, lo discuss matters with which they arc concerned, I will fight for the preservation of our rights: Until now the Government has been fair up to a point. It has scrubbed a few of my resolutions and motions and I have been prevented - at least the Opposition has attempted to prevent mc - from gelling leave to introduce a private member’s Bill relating to child endowment, a matter in which naturally 1 expected the Opposition to be most interested and a matter of great concern to the working class people in our community. But no. In a previous sessional period the Opposition endeavoured lo prevent mc even getting a private member’s Bill on the notice paper.
I object to (his motion of the Leader of the Opposition as a matter of principle because he is definitely giving away (he rights of the Opposition. He is saying to the Government: ‘We do not want this General Business section of the business paper. You just arrange your own business and disregard us. We are not concerned. When we ask that notice be taken of a certain motion’ it is only a formality. We do that only to direct attention to it. Wc are’ not serious. We are really not concerned’ - or are Opposition senators even prepared to debate it, because they know nothing about it? 1 sought leave in the Senate to discuss, as a matter of urgency, the re-organisation of the postal services and the question of placing the management of the Post Office in the hands of a statutory body. Naturally I was opposed by the Government. Being the realist I am, I expected that. The Government did not want any discussion on that matter because it would have necessitated a change of government policy,’ but the Opposition opposed me too. My colleague, Senator McManus, Senator Turnbull and I stood alone in this place and in the spirit of democracy I was denied the right lo discuss that matter which I know is part of ALP policy because 1 helped to formulate it. Despite that fact, I was denied the right to discuss the management of the Post Office which is an important matter having regard to the proposed increase in postal and telegraphic charges.
If the Leader of (he Opposition .wants to give away his opportunity to discuss these things, he may as well say to the Government: ‘We are the Opposition but we will take anything^ you give us’. I do not think that is good enough. It will not be good enough as far as I am concerned, as long as .1 am here, and 1 am sure it will not be pood enough while my colleague Senator McManus is here.
– What the honourable Senator is saying is all nonsense.
– Well, that is the opinion of a QC.
– It stands for queer chap.
– I do not know what it stands for. The Leader of the Opposition might have more legal knowledge, but I will not concede that he has any greater political knowledge or parliamentary knowledge than I possess. To forfeit his right lo discuss such an important question as the annual report of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission - well, I thought that such a matter would have been close to the hearts of true representatives of the working class people. 1 thought that the Labor Party would have gone into this subject; I thought that it would have welcomed and embraced the opportunity of discussing this very important report. How often have we heard protestations about the deficiencies and the weaknesses of our arbitration system? How often do we hear comrade Cant talking about the prejudiced opinions of our judges, about how lazy they are, about delays in hearing cases, and asking why judges do not do their job of work? How often do we hear charges about the deficiencies, inefficiencies and incompetence of our arbitration system? Now we have received a report on the activities of the Commission and someone moves - someone no less than the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Murphy himself - that the Senate take note of the paper. Yet tonight he says that he does not want to discuss this matter. Why docs he not want to discuss it? He is supposed to have had extensive experience as a lawyer in the industrial field. He should be able to stand up and discuss this annual report and take it to pieces, because of the time he has had to consider it, and give this Senate the benefit of his expert experience. But he does not do that. He says: We will leave this matter until some other day. We will forfeit our right’. Who knows but that in a few weeks time the Government might go to the people after a double dissolution or a single dissolution of the Parliament. No one knows.
– The Opposition would not be game, lt will chicken out.
– Well in that case the Labor Party will not be at the barricades. We will wait and see. Do not take my mind off the train I am following. I am more concerned about maintaining the prestige of our Parliamentary system of government than in playing for party advantage. Mr President, if no other honourable senator will do so then I am sure that you will join with me. I am sure that you and I have a responsibility here, if no other honourable senator has, to preserve the prestige of our parliamentary system of government. Our democracy hinges on it. If people want to make this Parliament a mockery, if they want to bring it into disrepute, if they want to add to that number of people who hold it up to ridicule, let them do so. They are only bringing about their own destruction.
I can understand those people who do not believe in a democratic system of government. I can understand those who do not believe in the parliamentary system of government. 1 can understand those who believe in a one party voting system. I can understand those people who say: ‘To hell with the Parliament; the more we destroy it the better and the easier it will be for us to overtake that country.’ I can understand all those people. But I am loath to believe that in this Senate there are men who would contribute to that line of thought I believe that they would all be true to the oath that they took in this Senate on the day they were sworn in as senators. I thought that they would be true to their oath of ‘office; that they would discharge that oath scrupulously and conscientiously. I would hate to think, Mr President, that anyone, in conscience, would destroy our parliamentary system of government, because on that system wc all stand.
– The honourable senator’s representatives do nol believe him.
– A lot of people have believed me for a long time, but Senator O’Byrne cannot produce any evidence of anyone ever having believed him. Do not let me get off the point that 1 have mentioned. I am not concerned whether the Labor Party obtains a postponement of the subject matters that have been referred to. I am concerned with preserving my right as an oppositionist to discuss the questions listed on (he notice paper under the heading of General Business. I do not forfeit to the Government the right to have a monopoly of the business.
– What is the honourable senator doing now?
– I am fighting for a right and a principle. If Senator Keeffe cannot recognise that, then I am not in the least perplexed or worried about it.
– Which one of these matters does the honourable senator have? He is up to date.
– I am well up to date. I am telling honourable senators that if anyone interferes with the right of the Parliament I will oppose whatever he does do. I think that the Leader of the Opposition is shortsighted. He is digging a grave for the Opposition in this Parliament. I will never bc a part to that. I warn him. us one who has had greater experience than he has had, always to conserve the right of the Opposition and get as much as it can as an Opposition because governments, as a rule, will give no more (han that (o which an opposition is entitled.
– Mr President, ) came into the Senate in 1958. I felt it a great privilege to do so because I considered that this House had so much to offer in the government of this country. Tonight J have seen an attempt made for the first lime to cut down the rights of individual senators. If more consideration had been given to this move by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) (his attempt would not have been made. From conversations in the past - and I do not think the Leader of the Opposition has changed his mind - I know that he. too, realises the importance of the Senate and the parliamentary system followed by the Australian Government. What are we faced with tonight? We are discussing a motion by the Leader of the Opposition asking the Senate lo discharge from the notice paper orders of (he day Nos. 1, 2, 3. 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 and II. Now, what are the matters covered by (hose orders of the day? f propose to go through (hem.
– The Minister should read (hem.
– As I told the Opposition last night, it has got to like what I say or lump it. The Leader of (he Opposition has moved that these orders be discharged.
– Read them through.
– Listen, Senator O’Byrne, I did not know that magpies were so prevalent in Tasmania; you must be the king magpie. Order of the day No. 1 concerns the annual report of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
– Who moved the adjournment of the.debate?
– Surely this is a very important subject indeed for members of the Opposition?
– Who moved the adjournment of the debate?
– Very well. Senator O’Byrne asks who obtained the adjournment.
– What is the name of the senator concerned?
– The name of the person who obtained the adjournment is Senator Murphy.
– Has he not got the right to withdraw this matter?
– Senator O’Byrne will have an opportunity to speak later. All I want to say is that with the exception of two matters listed under General Business, the Leader of the Opposition is seeking to gag debate on nine items on which Opposition members wished to speak. This is being done by the Opposition which does not like to see the gag applied. The Opposition is endeavouring to gag nine of these debates which have been adjourned on the motion of its members. What is the conclusion to be drawn from this?
– Have we protested?
– No. Surely the Opposition’s action exemplified the weakness of the argument that it wishes to present. That is why it wants these matters withdrawn. That is the only conclusion to be drawn. The second order of the day relates to a Tariff Board report.
– The Minister concerned has agreed to withdraw that matter.
– Here we have Senator O’Byrne-
– The Minister and I have already agreed to withdraw that matter.
– Senator O’Byrne obtained the continuation of the debate on that matter-
– And I obtained an agreement with the Minister to withdraw it; a faithful and honourable agreement with the M inister to withdraw it.
– I suppose Senator O’Byrne talks in his sleep. 1 do not know. All I hope is that if the honourable senator talks in his sleep he talks more sense than he does when he is awake. I come now to No. 3. which relates to Bass Strait gas and oil discoveries. Senator Cant who seeks to interject bored his comrades to tears last night for 45 minutes.
– Order! There is too much interjection. I warn the Senate that my patience is becoming exhausted.
– As I have said, No. 3 relates to Bass Strait gas and oil discoveries - one of the most important things that ever happened to Australia.
– It is in the Minister’s hands.
– I do not know whether the honourable senator thinks he is asleep or awake, but he is still talking. The discovery of gas has been one of the most important happenings for Australia and it is going to revolutionise our whole life here. The Opposition asks that this matter be withdrawn. The next matter concerns the Australian Honey Board.
– That is right, lt is dated 6th April. The bees have been buzzing around the Minister’s head ever since then and nothing has been done.
– If they buzz round the honourable senator’s head they would not interfere with his brains because I doubt whether he has any. I come now to No. 5, which relates to post-graduate research finance.
– That is Senator Murphy’s, and he has the right to withdraw.
– Of course he has. Senator Murphy has decided to gag himself on this, ls that an indication that he feels that he cannot go on with i;? After all, every time he has got on ‘lis feet as Leader of the Opposition he has been belted from - 1 shall not name the place - to high water. He now decides that he has had enough on this one and wants to have it withdrawn. I come now to No. 6 which relates to the quota system in universities.
– And Senator Marriott is not here to take it.
– Senator Marriott has the adjournment on this.
– He is not here now.
– I ask Senator O’Byrne to at least give the Senate a bit of a go.
– Order! Senator O’Byrne, von are becoming a nuisance to the speaker. You must cease interjecting.
– Mr President, I ask that von withdraw Bat remark that I am becoming a nuisance. It is unparliamentary.
– Mr President, did I hear the honourable senator aright? Did he say he asked you to withdraw your remark that he was a nuisance?
– 1 did not hear that.
– I do not think I can allow that reflection on the Chair to stand. I think the honourable senator should withdraw that request. He can say anything lie likes lo us, but he has no right to reflect upon the Chair.
– Mr President, would you like me to withdraw that remark?
– Of course I would.
– Then ‘I withdraw it unhesitatingly and without any qualification whatsoever.
– Senator Marriott has No. 6 in continuation. It has been very noticeable in the past that every time the Opposition has taken on the Minister for Education and Science in this place it has had a great drubbing indeed. That is probably one of the reasons why it wants this motion withdrawn. 1 come now to Common Market negotiations.
– The Minister has spoken on this already.
– Senator Cohen has had such a drubbing from Senator Gorton on this that he is still a little bit raw from all the wounds he has received every time he has opened his mouth. Last night was the last occasion.
– The Minister is just talking nonsense.
– Of course, the honourable senator would be quite a good judge of nonsense because that is what we usually get from him. I remind him that last night I had a great opportunity of drawing from him certain aspects that he did not like but which 1 enjoyed. The motion relating to Common Market negotiations is No. 7. Here again we have the Opposition endeavouring to gag its Deputy Leader, Senator Cohen. On the motion relating to Common Market negotiations Senator Cohen is in continuation. Therefore, the inference is that members of the Opposition feel: ‘We have had enough of this bloke; he is not doing much good; we will withdraw this one’.
I come now to No. 9 which relates to a ministerial statement on uniform literature censorship.
– I wanted to have a go on that, loo.
– Here again Senator Murphy is in continuation but apparently his followers have said: ‘We have had enough of our leader trying to make some headway on this. We will forget about it. We will knock this one out, too.’ What an admission of defeat on the part of the Opposition, when we find that although Opposition senators are in continuation on all these items except, for two, the Opposition is frightened to go on wilh them. This is in fact an admission by the Opposition senators themselves that they cannot carry on what they attempted to do. ‘
– The honourable senator would say that it is rubbish.
– You are wasting time.
– The honourable senator does not like interjections. I do not mind them. It is obvious to all of us in the Senate, that every time we interject on him we interrupt his thread of thought. That is why we interject. We did not interject last night because we felt that he was doing a better service for us by being uninterrupted that he would do if we sought to interrupt him. Of course, I have not got his intellect, so interjections do not affect me. The next item relates to the Chowilla Dam project, which is of so much interest not only to South Australian senators but also to Victorians and indeed those who come from my own State of New South Wales. The Opposition wants to withdraw this. Its attitude to this one is: ‘We have not taken a trick on this we had belter pull it oft’. Another admission of defeat. And here Senator Cavanagh is in continuation. I have very great respect for him because he does his homework and knows what he is talking about, but in this instance he is not showing it.
The Senate is being asked to agree to the withdrawal of items Nos 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 11, before honourable senators have had an opportunity of discussing them. I first came into this Senate impressed with the value of this House. If the Opposition does not feci that it is a privilege to belong to the Senate let me say that I do think it a privilege. I have a high regard for the work of the Senate and what the Senate should do. That is why I am protesting tonight at the suggestion that the work of the Senate should be denigrated in the fashion that is proposed now. What is now proposed represents a complete disregard of the normal practices of the Senate and I, for one. will not go along with it.
– For 15 years we did not get a general business day.
– I suppose the honourable senator cannot help interjecting. I am very thankful indeed that the majority of Western Australians adopt a very different attitude from that taken up by the honourable senator. Surely this attempt to have these matters taken off the notice paper is indicative of a most biased attitude. I submit that the Senate must regard it as an unwarranted interruption of the freedom of debate. Surely we are all agreed on that. As I understand it. members of the Opposition have always placed a very high value on the freedom of debate. We in Australia have always prided ourselves on it. This is a free country. This is a country in which, if a person docs not like the government, he says so; or, if he docs not like his neighbour, he says so. We have complete freedom. Here tonight we have witnessed all these attempts to restrict the freedom of debate. How members of the Opposition will live with that I do not know - and, quite frankly, I do not care.
Surely this motion is a misuse of democratic practices. We in Australia are very proud of the democratic system. Senator Cant, who is interjecting, may not be proud of it; but we have to have the exception to prove the rule. We are very proud of our democratic system of government in Australia. But what are members of the Opposition doing tonight? They are attempting to destroy that system because they are frightened of the results of it. That is (he only conclusion that one can draw. The fact that we place this value on the democratic system of government is not peculiar to us. It is common to all of us who are descended from the British.
– ‘Descended’ is right.
– What other word would Senator Ormonde use?
– You are making the speech. Why do you not get on with it?
– I am getting on with it, and apparently without very much comfort to Senator Cant. I repeat, that I have , a high regard for the value of the Senate. But have members of the Opposition reached the position where they have not any regard for it? Do they want to see the Senate placed in .the limbo of the lost? Whilst the policy of the Labor Party as a whole is that the Senate should be abolished, 1 know that that is not the policy of most honourable senators opposite.
– Did not Mr Whitlam say after the referendum that he would like to have a referendum on the Senate?
– Senator Gair has had a far longer experience in politics than I have. Tonight he really gave members of the Opposition a dressing down in relation to the attitude that they have adopted tonight.
-^- I thought he was looking towards you.
– I have this in common with Senator Ormonde: We both come from New South Wales, the best State.
– It is only the best because it has poker machines.
– I do not agree with that. In spite of the curse of poker machines, we have the best State. Senator Ormonde would agree with me on that. All I want to say-
– Never mind about ‘All I want to say*.
– One of the things that I want to say before J conclude - I am not concluding yet; much to the discomfort of members of the Opposition - is that their attitude tonight has been highhanded, dictatorial and completely contemptuous of the rights of the back bench senators. Members of the Opposition .cannot deny that, no matter how hard they try.
– Who wrote that out for you?
– As a matter of fact, 1 thought Senator Keeffe could read. This is my handwriting. Most people cannot read it, but I can. The manner in which this debate has been interrupted by members of the Opposition has not been to the credit of the Senate or the Opposition.
– I have been a member of the Senate for 8 years. I cannot recall any other occasion on which a motion as amazing as this one has been put before the Senate.
– What rubbish. The same thing has been done on many occasions.
– I do not want to be hard on Senator O’Byrne, who is interjecting, because we all know that he has not such an oversupply of grey matter that it oozes out of his ears. 1 say to him that in all the 8 years that 1 have been a member of the Senate I have never heard such an amazing proposal as this one. lt is suggested that seven items of general business should be wiped out to make way for a discussion on some other subject. We are not even told what that other subject is.
I refer to Order of the Day No. I . Some months ago Senator Murphy was at some pains to assure honourable senators that he was the spokesman for the Australian Council of Trade Unions in this Parliament. As a matter of fact, he said that he was able to say, on behalf of the trade union movement and the ACTU, that they did not want a representative of the Democratic Labor Party on the Senate select committee on containerisation. I have spoken to one of the lop members of the ACTU and asked him about this. He said that it was news to him; that he was not aware that the ACTU had ever made any such decision.
Even if what Senator Murphy said was true, is there one subject today that is more a matter of serious disputation and discussion in the trade union movement than the future of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission? All I say is that it is a bad day for the Labor movement when the Labor Party runs away from a discussion of the future of the Commission. If anybody had ever told me that the day would come when members of the Labor Party would not be prepared to stand up and discuss the future of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, which is in the melting pot today, I would not have believed it. Today there is all sorts of talk about a new look Labor Party. It certainly is a new look Labor Party when it has not the courage to stand up and talk about the future of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
Going down the list of general business, we come to a motion relating to a Tariff Board report. 1 read the Hansard reports of the proceedings in this chamber and in another place. Is there any question on which the Labor Party has been putting the finger more than on the Tariff Board question? 1 came into this chamber tonight prepared to discuss conciliation and arbitration because, for 31 months, I have had on the books a motion on the question of the proper employment of the judges of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Like members of the Labor Party, I have had union representatives come to me and complain bitterly about the long delays in hearings. Apparently some of the judges are engaged on their judicial duties for about I day in 9. That is a scandal that members of the Labor Party have not realised yet. I want to discuss that matter, but they propose to deprive me of the opportunity to do so. and also of the opportunity to refer to the Tariff Board-
– But the motion relates lo last year’s report.
– Why can you not raise that when the estimates of the Department of Labour and National Service are before us?
– Order! Senator Mulvihill will cease interjecting.
– Fancy Senator O’Byrne talking to me as he just did. We all know that all he has ever used his head for has been to keep his ears apart.
– You are a dog chaser.
– There is the dog chaser over there on my right; not me.
– Mr President, I rise to order. There has been a lot of talk about democracy here tonight. 1 have never been frightened to raise any injustice to anyone in the community. What I referred to in the adjournment debate last night was an injustice, irrespective of what this animal says.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– As I was saying when I was interrupted, I was looking forward to the opportunity to discuss this very serious Tariff Board question. I have been reading for some weeks the submissions that have been made in another place by the members of the Australian Labor Party. They have said that the activities of the Tariff Board constituted one of the most vital questions affecting this country. If the proposal now before the Senate is agreed to, I will be deprived of an opportunity to discuss the matter. I am a representative of the State of Victoria, and naturally I regard the Bass Strait gas and oil discoveries as being very important. It seems that I am to be deprived of the opportunity to discuss the matter. I am not an authority on honey. So I would have been prepared to pass by the third Order of the Day. Post graduate research is a vital question. So also is the quota system in universities. What could be more important to the future of Australia than the Common Market negotiations? What is more likely to affect the economic future of this country and our primary production than what is happening abroad in relation to the Common Market.
– There is the Tariff Board report, you fool. You do not know what, you’re talking about.
– I rise to a point of order. I cannot agree to this intimidation of a speaker. Senator O’Byrne left his seat and rushed across to intimidate Senator McManus. He should be restrained from doing this.
– Order! He certainly went across to Senator McManus. What the paper was I do not know.
– It was the Tariff Board report, to bring him up to date.
– Order! Senator McManus can handle the situation without that report.
– Thank you, Mr President. I merely want to say that I am not influenced by the acts of political standover men.
– I gave you a report to read. You have not read it yet. Mr President, I wish to take a point of order. It is quite unparliamentary to be called a political standover man. I do not think that term is on your list, though.
– Order! The point of order is not upheld.
– Mr President, I would have been quite prepared to withdraw the remark. Senator O’Byrne has not the ability to be a standover man.
– You said that I was, so make up your mind.
– No, the honourable senator has not got the ability.
– I rise to a point of order. I ask you, Mr President, to direct Senator McManus to withdraw that statement. Whatever you may have permitted so far, if this sort of thing is allowed to continue the debate will go into areas that should not be permitted. I ask you to ask Senator McManus to withdraw his comment on the ground that it is offensive.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. This request for a withdrawal is not in keeping with the practice of the Senate. When all is said and done, Senator McManus has been subjected to something that I have not seen in this chamber before.
– Has the Minister never been handed a document?
Senator McKellar - That is another example of Senator O’Byrne’s conduct. He has been interjecting continually. Any remarks that Senator McManus has made have certainly been warranted. I ask that the point of Order be not upheld.
– Order! I think it is time for me to say something about the standard of this debate. I do not think that the way in which honourable senators have been behaving has been doing the Senate any good. Very great liberties have been taken and I have allowed a good deal of freedom, lt is very difficult for me to know where to bring it to a stop. In many cases the interjections have been quite unpleasant and quite unnecessary. It will stop from now on.
– Mr President, I accept your ruling on this matter. I conclude by saying once again that 1 was very eager to speak on the report of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. This is a subject about which 1 have asked questions unavailingly for months and on which I have very strong opinions. The Tariff Board report vitally affects the future of Australia, and we should discuss it. The Bass Strait gas and oil discoveries are very important to Victoria, the electors of which I represent. I cannot imagine any subject that: is more important than Britain’s proposed entry into the Common Market. I cannot support the Opposition’s motion, which seeks lo prevent us from discussing all these vital matters. I have put a lot of work into the preparation of the submissions that I wanted to make on these matters. I hope that it will not all be wasted. I hope that the good sense of the Senate will lead it to come to the conclusion that all these are important matters and that the right to discuss general business on Thursday evenings will not be lightly sacrificed. I am surprised that the Opposition should suggest that it should be lightly sacrificed. In the past there has been a tendency for governments to be accused of attempting to take away the rights of the Opposition. Therefore 1 say very definitely that it would be a most retrograde step if the Senate were to accept the proposal. I certainly will vote against it.
Senator SCOTT (Western Australia) [9.161 - 1 am amazed at the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) in proposing this motion which, if agreed to, will prevent honourable senators from discussing the matters that have been mentioned. All these subjects have been regarded by members of the Senate as being highly important; otherwise they would not have been listed under the heading ‘General Business’. The Government has been most lenient in allowing general business to take precedence over Government business on Thursday nights during this Budget debate.
– It is provided for in (he Standing Orders, is it not?
– Yes. But I should like to inform the honourable senator that in 1966 no night was devoted to general business during the Budget debate. When the Senate sat on four Thursday nights during that debate it was agreed, without a division being taken, that Government business should take precedence over general business. This year the Government has decided to give honourable senators an opportunity to discuss their pet subjects on Thursday nights.
– The Government had the numbers, lt opposed the discussion of general business.
– I do not want to get into a hot debate with the honourable senator. I am just giving the Senate a few facts. When items are listed on the notice paper under the heading ‘General Business’ it is my duly, as Government Whip, to go to Government senators to ascertain those who are interested in particular subjects and to give them a fortnight or 3 weeks to prepare their speeches. That has been done on this occasion. But when we came into this chamber at 8 o’clock tonight the Leader of the Opposition rose and moved that certain items on the notice paper be discharged. This means that all the valuable time spent by honourable senators on this side of the chamber in acquainting themselves with the subjects would be virtually wasted. I would have thought that the duty of a leader of an Opposition would be to be completely responsible on these occasions and to see that before any item was listed under General Business that it was worthy of being placed on the notice paper. In that way honourable senators on both sides of the chamber who prepare themselves and acquaint themselves fully with the subjects would be able to conduct an interesting and intelligent debate.
I do not wish to deal in detail with each item on the notice paper. We have spent 80 minutes debating this issue and that loss of time could have been avoided had the Leader of the Opposition approached the Leader of the Government in -he Senate, say, a fortnight ago and told him of his proposal. An agreement might have been reached. The result is that time has been wasted by honourable senators on this side of the House in preparation df material to answer the criticisms of the Opposition. ] hope that in future when the Leader of the Opposition wishes to discharge items listed on the notice paper under General Business he will give a lot more notice than he has given on this occasion.
– In reply - I suppose one might say that the strength of a nation lies in the integrity of its leaders and that when that integrity is impaired, so is the strength of the nation. Some of the leaders of this nation are members of the Senate and we have had an opportunity to observe their conduct in relation to the procedures of this great chamber. The truth is that no right has been forfeited by the Opposition. Each of the items under General Business which I have moved to delete was placed there on behalf of the Opposition. No endeavour has been made to discharge any item that was placed there by an independent senator or a Government senator. If is open for any honourable senator to give notice and to have placed, under Government Business if he is a Minister, or under General Business any of the items that may be removed tonight. lt is obvious why 1 have moved my. motion. Honourable senators who were here, last Thursday night will remember that General Business was being dealt with and there was an important motion to set up a select committee on health. Honourable senators opposite deliberately delayed the passage of. that matter through the Senate until the time for discussion of General Business had elapsed. Then when the Opposition wished to have the adjournment of the Senate delayed so that the matter of the select committee on health could be brought to a vote, honourable senators opposite voted to adjourn the Senate and thereby moved that item down to No. 12 on the notice paper. If the course were pursued of taking out each item as was done with the proposal for the select com mittee on health, because of the procedures of the Senate it would take not merely 11 sitting weeks to bring each matter on again, but actually 22 weeks because there is an alternation between notices of motion and orders of the day. It was a deliberate attempt to prevent the Senate coming to a vote on the matter.
Thai is the reality of the matter before the Senate. That vote was taker; in circumstances where men from the splinter party - the Democratic Labor Party - broke their word. The Leader of the Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair) gave his word to Senator O’Byrne that he would vole against the adjournment of. the matter last Thursday. 1 had hoped that he would return to the chamber to hear what has been said. Senator O’Byrne assures me that although Senator Gair said he would never vote for the gag, he would vote to prevent the matter being adjourned. Sci this matter of great importance to the Senate and the people of Australia was prevented from being brought to a vote. I on behalf of the Opposition thought that matter sufficiently important to take what steps I could without’ interfering with the rights of other honourable senators. Senator Gair has on the notice paper a motion on the two to one ratio and Senator Branson has a motion on the extension of television services. I have moved to discharge the other items on the notice paper. They are all Opposition items and all could be restored. Some are of long standing, and some have perhaps lost a little interest. Some arc of great importance, but each was placed on the notice paper subsequent to the motion for the setting up of a select committee on health. It was proper, so the Opposition conceived, that the Senate should have an opportunity of dealing with the matters in the order in which they arc brought on and in what we conceive to be the order of importance to be attached to them.
– I do not like to interject but I think I should point out that we spent 2i hours last week on the item which is now No. 11. It was given a very good hearing and that is why it is now No. 11.
– We were subjected to the degrading spectacle of an honourable senator opposite deliberately wasting the time of the Senate by reading documents.
– You slipped out from under, you withdrew speakers, you yielded, you gave in and you acknowledged it.
– The honourable senator may say what he says. I leave to the judgment of honourable senators what they think of his conduct in reading from documents as he did when there was an opportunity-
– What did Senator Cant do last, night? He read page after page and did not bring forward a constructive thought of his own.
– I am glad that the honourable senator is sufficiently troubled to endeavour to justify his actions which are in no way excused by his references to any other senator’s actions. The rights of the Opposition have in no way been forfeited. Each of the items that are the subject of the motion can be brought on again. I regret that the Leader of the Democratic Labor Party is still absent from the chamber. Apparently he does not want to come into the chamber. We have heard from him his statements about what he did.
– I have been looking after New South Wales constituents. Now say what you want to say.
– 1 am pleased that Senator Gair has been looking after New South Wales constituents. It is a great tragedy that he was a man of sufficient spleen to destroy the Australian Labor Party in Queensland and that his policy was not to look after the constituents of Queensland.
– Order! Senator Murphy, you are getting very wide of the mark.
– The honourable senator was not a member of the Labor Party in 1957.
– We have heard the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party say here in a display-
– Repeat what you said now that I am here.
– I will repeat what I said. The Leader of the Democratic Labor Party in a display of apparent justification to the Senate for the stand that he was taking said that he wanted to discuss the 2 to 1 ratio - this after a referendum has been held and after every senator in this chamber knows that the matter has been ventilated. In no way should that matter be preferred to other important matters-
– The issue is not dead.
– It is still there.
– Other important matters have to be dealt with in this Senate. 1 say for that matter that no man speaking rightly with the interest of this country at heart could prefer a discussion on the 2 to 1 ratio to the discussion on whether a select committee on health should be set up in this country. Even so, the motion-
– You pulled your speakers off. You took them off the list.
– Will you keep quiet, Mr Leader. This did not attempt to interfere-
– You cannot take it.
– A man with big match temperament.
– Yes, a man with big match temperament.
– You have a big match temperament.
– Yes. The Leader of the Democratic Labor Party is a man who, last Thursday night, assured an officer of the Australian Labor Party that when the important matter which has now been adjourned - item No. 12 which we are endeavouring to bring up - was debated here he would not be a party to the gagging of the debate in the Senate and that when the debate came to be adjourned he would vote against the adjournment in order to see that there was a discussion on this matter. Here is the nub of the matter. He would not be a party-
– Mr President, a point of order.
– The Leader of the DLP came into this chamber-
– Order! There is a point of order.
– 1 rise to a point of order merely to put the matter straight.
– What is your point of order?
– The point of order is that I am alleged to have told an officer of the ALP that I would not support the motion for the adjournment of the Senate. That is not true. I have never felt myself obligated to tell a member of the Opposition - of the ALP - what my intentions were or what the intentions of my Party are on any vote. 1 deny very forcefully that I told anyone what I was going to do.
– Order! I call Senator Murphy.
– It is-
– Too long was I a slave to you.
– Too long has the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party-
– Order! Senator Murphy, you will confine yourself to the subject. Senator O’Byrne, you will remain seated.
– We will move that you be heard, Senator O’Byrne. Get up and say what happened - say that Senator Gair said it.
– Order! Senators, I do not want to take action, but if this continues, I will take action. Do not make any mistake about it. When I say that, I will not hesitate. Senator Murphy, you will carry on with your speech.
- Mr President, it is unfortunate that the honourable senator should be concerned about this matter. I suppose he feels that he should deny what was said by Senator O’Byrne-
– Order! Senator Murphy, you are being provocative. I have given a warning. 1 do not want any trouble here tonight.
– I say this to honourable senators: It is a bad position in the Senate when the realities of a debate are not presented to the Senate and to the people. The reality here is that the Government is trying to prevent a debate on the selling up of a select committee on health-
– What rubbish!
– Really! You had two and a half hours last Thursday night.
– Order! Senator Murphy will bc heard in silence.
– Each of the items which will be discharged from the notice paper if the motion is carried was proposed by members of the Opposition. Items which were put on the notice paper by other honourable senators are excluded. The next item for discussion is the matter of the appointment of a select committee on health. If honourable senators think that there is anything worth while in discussing the 2 to 1 ratio which was put on the notice paper by Senator Gair they are welcome to do so. If they think there is anything worth while in discussing the extension of television services put on the notice paper by Senator Branson they are entitled to do so. But if this motion were carried it would mean that there would be the opportunity before the end of this legislative period for the Senate to make its determination on whether a select committee on health should be set up. Mr President, whatever its prevarication, however much it endeavours to delay the discussion, the Australian Democratic Labor Party would be forced then into the position of saying whether it supported this or whether it was going to vote against it. The reality is that every endeavour, every prevarication, every shenanigan, every trick and every device that can be used-
– Order! Senator Murphy, I ask you to give me assistance in keeping this debate on a reasonable level. You will have trouble if you do not heed me. I do not want any trouble.
- Mr President, I suggest that every endeavour has been made not only by the Government but also by its assistants in the matter, the Democratic Labor Party, to prevent the matter being brought to a head. It is a simple enough issue. If the Opposition is wrong in respect of the motion. that it has put forward, and if the proposal we make does not commend itself to the Senate, let a vote be taken and let the Opposition be defeated. If the proposal that we have put forward is not in the public welfare, let it be defeated. Why are there all these attempts to prevent this proposal to the Senate being determined?
We cannot win if the Senate is against us and if the arguments that we have put up are not sufficient. Why is it, then, that a vote is not taken? If the Government is prepared to go out to the people, meet them and say that it would not have this com. mittee set up; and if the Democratic Labor Party is prepared to go out to the people and say that it was not prepared-
– Mr President, I rise toa point of order. The Senate is discussing a motion by Senator Murphyto delete seven items of General Business on the Notice Paper. It is the privilege and right of this Senateto debate that motion. That is the issue. The issue is not what is going to happen regarding a committee which was the subject of a2½ hour debate, last Thursday night. The Leader of the Opposition crossed Opposition senators’ names off the list of speakers and would not let them speak. He took their names off the list of speakers sothat he would get the debate completed. The issue has been made clear.
– Order! The whole matter is getting completely out of hand again.Senator Murphy, you said earlier that the matter should go to a vote. I assure you that when you sit down it will go to a vote. I ask you to contain yourself completely within the matter under discussion.
– Mr President, I will contain myself. The argument has been put forward against the motion proposed by me that the other matters listed for discussion are so important that they should be dealt with. My answer is that the reason for my motion is the importance of dealing with item No. 12. The opposition from the Government and the Democratic Labor Party, and the reasons that they have advanced for their opposition, are not genuine. They have suggested that the other matters are important. My answer is that each of the matters I seek to have removed from the notice paper can be restored without any difficulty by the single action of any senator. Each can be restored to the notice paper. So that reason’ is not sound. Themotive of the Government and of the Democratic Labor Party is to prevent a determination in respect of item No. 12. All of these other matters, Mr President, have arisen from a lack of good faith on the part of the Government senators and on the part of the Democratic Labor Party. I say no more than that in relation to the various matters that have been put forward. There is no basis whatever for the suggestions that have been made. This motion is entirely in accordance with the Standing Orders of the Senate. It is an appropriate motion to put forward when one wants to alterthe order in which the business of the Senate is dealt with and 1 would ask the Senate to support the motion. I would say that those who oppose the motion are doing so not for the genuine reasonof discussing matters such as the two to one ratio-
– We are very anxious to discuss it.
– Mr President, a lot of harsh things have been said here tonight and Senator Gair insists on interrupting to saythat he is very anxious to discussthe two to one ratio. My answer is that that is hypocrisy.
– Just as hypocritical as you were the other night on the adjournment.
– I take a point of order. The word hypocrisy has been ruled to be unparliamentary and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– In view of the circumstances I call upon you, Senator Murphy, to withdraw the word hypocrisy.
– I withdraw it.
That the motion (Senator Murphy’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 4 May (vide page 1185), on the following paper presented by Senator Gorton:
Tenth Annual Report of the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for the year ended 13th August 1966- and on the motion by Senator Cavanagh:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
– Mr President, it seems that the Senate would like to discuss this report further. Although it is described as an annual report, it is the report of the Commission for the financial year ended 13th August 1966. Of course, these reports are made from year to year and already there has been another report which has replaced the report presently before the Senate This means that owing to the delays that take place in the consideration of Government business and general business the report is really out of date by the time it comes up for reconsideration. We have a report which is already over a year old. During the course of the past year some very important events have happened. One of them is a complete revolution in the approach of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission which has adopted a total wage concept under which a general wage determination has been made which is entirely opposed by the Labor movement in Australia.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Labor Party reject this approach to wage fixation that there will not be another wage determination until August of next year. In the meantime, the workers of this country have to suffer the erosion of their wages ly the operation of increasing prices and general inflation. We consider that this report is entirely out of date. If the Senate is to engage properly in discussing the operations of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission it would be appropriate that the Government bring forward immediately the new report of the Commission so that it may be discussed intelligently in this chamber. That would be the proper basis upon which to consider this matter.
At an earlier period Senator Wright made certain remarks with which I did not agree in relation to the operations of the tribunals which administer the Act. In view of the fact that the report is now out of date I will not say any more about them. Instead I ask the Leader of the Government to consider bringing forward as soon as possible the report of the Commission for the past year so that we may discuss it.
– I support the Leader of the Opposition. Although it may be argued that his remarks are not connected with the former debate, 1 think it is most important to point out that the report we are considering tonight is antiquated. Since the report was tabled in the Senate the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has come to a most revolutionary decision. For the first time in our arbitration history the supreme body in that field - the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission - has said that the constitution of the wage paid to workers in industry should be changed from the traditional basis. For that reason and because the report before us relates to matters in the arbitration field which are long since out of date, I believe that Senator Murphy is right in asking the Government to present to the Senate the latest report of the Commission which should include its reasons for the change in arbitration procedures.
I think that this is the occasion for raisingin this Senate the activities of the Government before the Commission. In recent years the Commonwealth Liberal Government has not been fair in its actions, lt has always argued that the economy should develop on its own motivation and that prices should reach a reasonable level through the law of supply and demand. When important issues have been before the Commission the Commonwealth Government has appeared before it and argued against the petitions of the advocates briefed by the Australian Council of Trade Unions. This has been most pronounced in recent years. The Commonwealth Government has assisted employers’ applications before the Commission and has argued against the traditional wage content of the Australian work force. Until now we have had a wage based on the needs concept.- We have always heen a welfare stale. Australia has prided itself on its ideas of arbitration and conciliation. We have said that apart from the ability of industry to pay a fair wage a minimum standard should be established for the community. Not only Labor governments .but Liberal governments as well have assented to that principle.
This year, however, the Liberal Government which controls us appeared before the Commission. .It said that it did not agree with the wage concept and believed that it should bc changed to a total wage. The Government paid no regard, to the fact that with the introduction of a total wage we will enter upon an era of industrial disputationbecause for the first time in our history the ordinary means of arbitration, conciliation and consultation between workers and employers and between unions and bosses will bc changed. If this system obtains wc will enter upon an era of collective bargaining, and associated with that will be industrial disputation. There is no doubt of that. This Government made a fatal mistake when it assisted the employers’ application before the Commission, and we should tell the Government now that wc arc opposed to it.
We have been very fortunate in Australia in having a national body - the ACTU - as a mouthpiece for the trade unions. The ACTU covers the whole trade union movement. This is highly important in the field of industrial relations. Any government whether Labor or Liberal dealing with the ACTU should be prepared to deal with it rationally and responsibly and should pay great heed to what it says. In recent years the Government has not done so and for that reason it has made a fatal mistake. The fact that we are discussing a report of the Arbitration Commission which does not develop the new thinking on the total wage concept or include the Commission’s reasons for its decision, is sufficient reason for Senator Murphy’s demand. I support him.
I am most concerned about the future. Unless the Government pays heed to what the ACTU said this week there could be a change in industrial relations in Australia. We could bc entering upon an era of continual industrial disputes. I and other honourable senators have said in the past that our record in relation to industrial disputes is much better than the record in continental countries and in the United States of America. Despite charges levelled against the trade union movement, we have a great record of peace in industry. This has been possible only because since the early days of arbitration wc have had a highly developed trade union organisation and established methods of liaison and consultation between workers and employers and the Commission. Now this has all been disturbed and for that reason we ask the Government to consider realistically what it has assisted the employers to do.
I conclude by saying that the report of the Arbitration Commission now before the Senate is out of date. It is out of date because we have allowed a new and quite unreal situation to develop. We should go back to the time when we all agreed that there should be a community wage, a wage for a man and his family, and not be arguing that a total wage should obtain. I criticise the Government for allowing this situation to develop.
– I assure the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) that the President of the Commonwealth Concilialion and Arbitration Commission has not yet presented the 1967 report to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury). As soon as the report is received it will be presented to the Parliament.
Senator Bishop is in error when he claims that the Government appeared before the Commission and advocated a total wage. My belief is that the employers appeared before the Commission sponsoring the total wage concept. I say also that the Government has not continually opposed claims by unions before the Commission. For many years the basic wage has been based on the capacity of the economy to pay.
I disagree with those who say that the annual report of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission now before the Senate is antiquated. It has a very good slogan - ‘Towards Goodwill in Industry’. 1 found the report intensely interesting. Many of the President’s comments covered the first decade of the Commission’s existence and therein, .1 think, lies the value of this report. He referred to the fact that the Act commenced in 1904 so we have had 63 years experience in the field of arbitration. In that period there have been many changes. Australia probably has the greatest wealth of arbitration experience of any country in the world. As I have said, the Act commenced in 1904 and the Commission came into being in 1956. This report covers the first decade. Although it is an annual report it covers the alterations made to the procedures in the last decade.
The first matter to which I wish to refer relates to the separation of the judicial and the arbitration functions of the Commission. Originally a court dealt with all those things. Then a commission was created to deal with the arbitration functions, and the judicial functions were vested in the Commonwealth Industrial Court. This is one of the matters which this report describes as a step forward in the procedures and functions of the Commission. The report also refers to the important change in the type of tribunal constituted. This is a commission, not a court, and it has both judges and lay commissioners. This aspect is referred to on page 4 of the report. The President stated:
Another important change was in the type of tribunal constituted to deal with the arbitration functions summarised by the naming of the tribunal as a ‘Commission’ and not a ‘Court’. For the first time Judges and lay Commissioners became jointly members of a Commonwealth arbitration tribunal often sitting together as members of full benches and each helping the other with their differing types of training and experience.
This is a good procedure to be followed, both for the judges and for the lay commissioners. It allows the judges to get beyond what might be called floor experience and the commissioners gradually to amass knowledge of the legal and judicial side and to gain experience as to the reasons why certain decisions have been made. Thus very complex problems have been translated to provide practical results. This is a democratic experience of great value. The President said that this was one of the great steps forward which have been accomplished in the last 10 years. He also said that experience led to a smoother working of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act and to better team work.
The President said that the Commission works in a very informal and relaxed manner. Early in its history, the Commission discarded the historic wigs and gowns worn by the legal profession. I think it is important that both sides, when considering arbitration matters should be able to present their case to the Commission in an informal and relaxed atmosphere. It is good that the Commission has established procedures which can be understood by the parties appearing before it. The Commission has amassed a wealth of understanding in relation to personalities, principles and practical problems associated with securing a fair deal for those employed in a wide range of industrial undertakings.
Discussions are constantly being held outside the Commission on a national level between representatives of unions and employers. These relate to any new procedural changes that are envisaged. I think it is a great step forward to have these discussions take place outside the Commission. They are a tremendous help in attaining the objective of the Commission, the slogan of which is Towards goodwill in industry’.
When reading the report I gained the impression that the Commission is active and moving with the times. It is not frightened to judge things on the practicality of the situation. The President also mentions the maritime industry and the stevedoring industry. Both are dealt with by Mr Justice Gallagher. Having a man such as Mr Justice Gallagher to concentrate on these two industries has been a great step forward. To assist him he has Mr A. E. Woodward QC. I want to say a few words about Mr Woodward because he has done a magnificent job in regard to industrial relations on the waterfront. Mr Woodward’s report, which has been submitted to the Senate, is very constructive. I think that the author can well be proud of his work. He is trusted by all and has played a great part in conciliation in the stevedoring industry. I think it has helped all the complex industries considerably to have people who can specialise in them and understand them.
It is interesting to note the allocation of industries to the various commissioners. These are set out at pages 6, 7, £ and 9 of the report. The commissioners are specialists in their own fields. This system allows each commissioner to grasp the intricacies of the industries allotted to him and to gain expertise which would not otherwise be available. The Senior Commissioner is Mr James Edward Taylor. He deals with aluminium production, including any mining of power generation operations carried on in connection with aluminium production; confectionery manufacturing; furniture trades; railway engine drivers, firemen and engine cleaners; railway services, transportation grades, permanent way and signalling maintenance grades, miscellaneous grades; and the vehicle manufacturing industry.
Mr E. J. Clarkson specialises in hostels, restaurants, cafeterias, canteens, etc.; the liquor trades, including hotels, wine saloons, breweries, distilleries, marine yards, yeast and vinegar, wine and spirit, aerated water, etc.; paper, paperboard and pulp manufacture; rope and cordage; rubber workers and cable manufacture; storemen and packers; and timber. As I have said, Mr Clarkson specialises in those industries. This leads to good conciliation.
Mr J. R. Donovan has a very wide group of industries indeed. He deals with brown coal mining; commercial and industrial artists; dairying; the entertainment industry, including actors, announcers, musicians, employees engaged in film production and distribution, indoor bowling, television, theatres, at racecourses, showgrounds, etc.; with flax; fruit growing, dried fruits and wine production; gold and metalliferous mining; grain harvesting; gypsum procurement; hop growing; municipal employees; pastoral matters; prospecting and/or drilling for oil; rice growing; road and dam construction, including forestry work; and wool classing. (Quorum formed) I was referring to the groups in which the various commissioners specialised and I felt that what I was reading was of great interest. I had reached the stage where I was about to mention that Commissioner George Andrew Findlay dealt with matters relating to the ACT group of industries, clerks, other than airways salaried officers and clerks in banks, Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd, insurance offices, trustee offices, shipping offices, railway and tramway undertakings, municipal and statutory undertakings and the aluminium industry. He also deals with matters relating to the clothing trades, including millinery, dry cleaning, making of umbrellas and making of furs into articles of apparel, shipping clerks, matters relating to the textile industry, including knitting, and matters relating to wool brokers’ staffs. That is a very wide range covering some very important sections of industry. (Quorum formed).
The remainder of the Commissioners and the matters in which they specialise are set out on pages 7, 8 and 9 of the report. I would be quite happy to read those pages to the Senate if that is desired, but I have gathered the impression that the Opposition, especially Senator O’Byrne, wishes to gag me on these points. It is very provocative when the Opposition adopts such tactics as to call for a quorum and it makes one want to read all these details, but I shall resist the temptation and pass on.
In his report for 1 966, the President, Sir Richard Kirby makes some comments on pages 20 and 21 which are just as illuminating and just as interesting as the particulars which I was giving when the Opposition attempted to gag mc. On page 20, Mr Justice Kirby makes reference to overaward payments in these terms: tn discussing over-award matters 1 have not left out of consideration implications of the decision in the recent General Motors-Holdens case. In that case this Commission .refused (although it was common ground that it had power to do so) to make an award for reasons of clearly stated policy. The parties had for years bargained about over-awards and the decision was not in any way out of harmony wilh this fact of industrial life.
Further on he says:
My two preceding Reports emphasised the spirit of co-operation wilh which the organised employers and the unions were facing the problems which they knew would arise from the introduction of decimal currency. Last year. I reported that this co-operation had resulted in I lie formation for the first time in Australian industrial history of a joint committee representing the organised unions and the organised employers of the country.
This Joint Standing Committee on Decimal Currency had, as I mentioned in last year’s Report, reached -an agreement which was tendered to me so that the members of this Commission concerned with the variation of awards could give their general concurrence to its implementation.
This year the change-over to decimal currency occurred and I am happy to report that the cooperation, hard work and attention to detail of the Joint Committee of employers and unions and of the members of this Commission resulted in the change-over to decimal currency being effected smoothly and without the loss of any time through industrial disputation. 1 report this significant accomplishment in the context of my expressions of optimism for the future not only because it demonstrates how cooperation between those on both sides of the industrial fence can be achieved when the will is there but also because the success there achieved could bc repeated in other and more important fields.
A joint committee of the organised unions and of the organised employers meeting fairly regularly for discussion of industrial relations on the national level’ might well be aimed at and if, on occasion or more often, the President of the Commission could assist by being an independent chairman, 1 can give the assurance that he would be delighted to do so.
That is one facet of this report on industrial relations to which I heard no reference made by honourable senators opposite. As a matter of fact, Senator Bishop and Senator Murphy appeared to be most pessimistic about future developments in this field. Here we have a really constructive suggestion by the President of the Commission thai a joint committee of the organised unions and of the organised employers meet fairly regularly for discussion of industrial relations in order that the industry might bc kept working smoothly. 1 commend it to honourable senators.
During the course of this debate reference was made to the total wage. I have before me a very interesting document entitled Review’ published by the Institute of Public Affairs, lt is the issue for April-June 1967 and it contains these very interesting comments about the 1967 wage decision and the vast improvement that has taken place:
The 1.967 Wage Judgment is remarkable in more ways than one. lt abandons the basic wane which has been the central feature of the determinations of the national wage-fixing body for 60 years. In this sense the Judgment is historic. lt accepts the ‘total wage’ (the basic wage plus loadings and margins) as the basis for future wage adjustment^.
It applies, for the first time, the full increase awarded (in this case.Sl) to adult female workers as well as to males; this has been taken by some to foreshadow a gradual move toward equal pay for equal work.
Here is another interesting facet:
It is unanimous. Judgments in recent years have often been marked by wide divergences of opinion between different members of the Commission, thus seriously weakening the authority of the majority decision.
Perhaps for the first time the Judgment itself is expressed in brief, simple terms (it comprises less than 10 foolscap sheets) thus avoiding the lengthy, tortuous and confusing argumentation of previous post-war judgments.
Finally, the Commission, in spile of its constant insistence in the past that it is not an ‘incomes body’ but a body for ‘settling disputes’, seems to have moved, at least some way, toward the former conception. This is suggested by the text, of the Judgment which emphasises the ‘economic consequences’ aspect of the Commission’s determinations and the desirability of avoiding an increase which would ‘create difficulties about prices and inflation’; but, even more so, by the nomination of a specific date, August 6, 1968 for the next annual economic review of wages.
I could say much more on this interesting subject. I disagree entirely with those honourable senators who say that this annual report is out of date. Were we in China, we could say that the decade from 1956 to 1966 was one in which a great Icap forward was made in industrial relations and understandings on a tripartite basis between the Commission, the union advocates and the employer advocates. A far better understanding has developed in an informal and relaxed atmosphere. That is to be commended. The President of the Commission is also to be commended on the information that he has provided to the Parliament in this annual report. I appreciate the opportunity that I have had tonight to discuss this matter. I very nearly lost it. 1. was beginning to wonder whether we would have the opportunity for which we so earnestly strove. I would not like to sit down without saying that I appreciate the opportunity that I have had tonight. If the time had not been so short, I would have liked to speak for much longer.
– The Minister for Supply (Senator Henty) has said that he disagrees with some of the statements that were made by Senator Bishop. That is his right. But I agree entirely with one statement that Senator Bishop made. If I heard him correctly, he said that the trade union movement faces a crisis at the present time and that within the next year or two, or perhaps within the next month or two, it will have to make a decision on whether its future will lie with arbitration or with collective bargaining. I do not think there is a realisation in our community of the extent of the crisis that faces the trade union movement.
– Or in the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
– That is so. Generally arbitration has been very good to the Australian worker and to the trade union movement. Consequently, on the average, Australia is probably the most unionised country in the world. The Australian Council of Trade Unions has firmly put its faith in the arbitration system. I have been a delegate to ACTU congresses and have voted with the overwhelming majority of delegates who have said that they have stood firmly for the arbitration system.
But today there is a different feeling even among trade unions that have been noted for their loyalty to the arbitration system. Today there is a feeling of impatience and dissatisfaction.
– And of frustration.
– That is quite correct. Advocates are growing more and more enamoured of a proposal that the Australian trade union movement should switch over to collective bargaining. I know that in other countries such as Great Britain and the United Stales there is very powerful advocacy of collective bargaining. My view of it is that it may work if there are good people on both sides of the fence. But I am not too sure how it would work in the Australian trade union movement, particularly when in some unions there are powerful Communist influences. Senator Bishop, who is an experienced trade unionist, was quite right when he said that the Government of this country must have a serious look at the whole system of arbitration and see what can be done to make it work better.
– What is the fundamental objection to the total wage? I have not studied the matter.
– I will nol have time to deal wilh the total wage issue to night. I state my belief that there are unnecessary delays in dealing with cases. Union after union can testify to that. The Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) should look at the whole situation of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission at ;he present time and sec what is causing these delays which spread over a period of 2 years and more and which result in good unions being so frustrated that they feel that their only alternative is to go to collective bargaining. Today many ordinary trade unionists, many ordinary rank and file men, are voting for strikes and one day stoppages not because they want to but because they are frustrated by the delay after delay that occurs in dealing with their cases.
I refer now to what may be a delicate matter. But I believe that this should be said. It is a matter of great comment in the trade union movement today that soma of the judges on the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission do not appear to be employed to anything like th<; degree to which one would expect them to be. I have made inquiries. I have asked for the figures on how often certain of the judges have been engaged in judicial work, inquiries and the other normal work of the Commission. But I am refused in answer. 1 have come to the conclusion tha-‘ there is something to hide.
– About 2 years ago I received an answer which was v.-ry revealing in the direction of the concern that the honourable senator. is mentioning.
– I repeat that I have come lo the” conclusion that there is something to hide. I have only a few minutes in which to make the res! of my speech. There must, bc something wrong when leading personalities in the trade union movement tell me that, as far as they know whilst there arc 365 days in the year, some of the judges have not been occupied for even 50 days a year. I hope that that i; wrong. I ask the Government whether I will ever bc given an answer to my question. Is there nol something wrong’ when the trade unions of this country arc asking for justice and they arc being told that judges and commissioners are not available; when the delays arc such that the trade unions are forced into the field of collective bargaining; and when investigation;- disclose that for some reason - I want to know what it is - some of the judges are not occupied for more than 50 days in 365? The Government is asking for trouble when it tolerates such a situation.
I believe in the arbitration system. I hope it will persist. I do not like the idea, but I would not blame the workers of this country for switching over to collective bargaining if the arbitration system is to be allowed to be run in the way in which it has been run.
– It is run down.
– That issoI agree entirely with what Senator Bishop said. I believe that everything he said is true. We are facing a crisis. Unless the Government looks into the situation and gets the arbitration system back on the rails we will face a very serious situation; we will face grave industrial trouble that will cause Australia immense losses and immense trouble in the years to come.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate,I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
[10.30] - Yesterday afternoon and again this morning Senator Keeffe directed to me as Minister representing the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) questions concerning the tragic deaths of babies at the Canberra Community Hospital. I informed him that as soon as I bad some information I would make it available to him and to the Senate. I now have some information from the Minister for Health, who received further reports today from the Acting General Medical Superintendent of Canberra Community Hospital, Dr N. A. Elvin, concerning the deaths of premature babies in the hospital. The Minister said that the two specialists who were flown from Sydney yesterday to investigate the causes of the deaths, and to advise if necessary on the. treatment of babies who had been returned to their homes or were still in hospital, had returned to Sydney today. Both had expressed the opinion that everything possible had been done to protect both mothers and babies. They felt there was every indication that the outbreak had been contained.
The visiting specialists, who arrived in Canberra late on Wednesday afternoon, worked until late last night reviewing the circumstances of the cases and the evidence available. In their view this evidence suggested that the disease which caused the babies’ deaths was of viral origin, of a type affecting premature infants. The exact pattern of the disease, however, was of an unusual form and extensive further laboratory and other investigations would be necessary to determine the agent responsible. These tests were now in progress at laboratories in both Canberra and Sydney. The Minister said that Dr Elvin had reported to him that one of the babies who had been exposed to infection was showing symptoms similar to the others and the infant’s condition was causing concern. This child was being kept under constant supervision.
Maternity cases are still being admitted to the hospital, but every endeavour is being made to ensure that normal babies are kept in separate rooms with their mothers. Premature infants are being cared for in an area isolated from other patients. The Minister said that the Canberra Hospital authorities had arranged for the District Nursing Service of the Department of Health, the Home Help Service of the National Council of Women and the Canberra Mothercraft Society to give special assistance to mothers and babies who had been asked, as a precautionary measure, to leave the hospital earlier than is customary.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.32 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 31 August 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1967/19670831_senate_26_s35/>.